When you absent-mindedly thumb through your Facebook news feed, it’s easy to forget there’s a lot of computer power going on behind the scenes to serve you those photos, videos, and updates.
I visited Facebook’s pop-up at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos on Wednesday, where the company was showcasing all the new tech it is working on to meet its mission of making the world more open and connected.
Visiting execs, politicians, dignitaries, and journalists like me were shown the propeller of Facebook’s solar-powered internet drone Aquila, given demos of Oculus and Samsung VR, and we also got up close and personal with the bits of Facebook you rarely see: Its servers.
Here are all the servers you connect with when you login to your Facebook news feed.
As soon as you log into Facebook, you send a request to a web server that it describes as the 'gateway' to your personalised Facebook experience.
The web server connects with the database server, which makes sure you're seeing the latest updates.
Second from the top is one of the photo and video servers that processes some of the 2 billion photos shared every day across Facebook and other apps like Instagram and Messenger.
At the bottom is the news feed server itself. As the sign states, this server pulls in thousands of pieces of data and parses it within a few hundredths of a millisecond.
The news feed server, database server, and photos and videos server all connect to one of Facebook's many server trays. This small tray holds 60 terabytes of data.
There are thousands of those trays in the average Facebook data center. Facebook's web server and storage designs use snaps and spring-loaded catches to hold components in place.
Not having screws means technicians can handle thousands more servers than in traditional data centres.
This complicated-looking piece of hardware is called a '6-pack.' It is a switch platform that controls the data flow across the network of computers in the data center. Facebook says you can transfer the contents of the entire Library of Congress in less than 20-seconds with just one of these.
Of course, so many servers, processing so much data requires a lot of cooling. Here's one of the fans that does just that.
Facebook was keen to show Davos delegates that despite all the servers, hard drives, and fans required to keep the site running for its 1.5 billion monthly active users, its data centres use a lot less energy than most data centres. A Facebook spokeswoman told me that to power one person's Facebook use for a year, it emits less carbon than it takes to make one medium latte with a coffee machine.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.