Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to shoot several assignments for Facebook. The jobs vary from lifestyle photos to industrial photography and are always as interesting as they are exciting. This last job at their data center was no different, and probably the most interesting yet.
I have been a Facebook user for years, and it always feels a little strange whenever I post something about Facebook, on Facebook – kind of like looking at your endless reflections in a hall of mirrors. So, I figured I would put these photos in a blog and just post the link, which makes it a little less reflective. I think. But then again, with 1.6 billions users each day, who’s going to notice it anyway.
Yep, 1.6 billion users every day, on Facebook. I learned that when I asked what was growing so fast that they needed to continue building data centers the size of 4-5 football fields each. The answer was, Facebook. I’m pretty sure they’re my largest corporate client now.
For this photo assignment I got to work in the guts of the operation for a day. We photographed 3 different areas; the Cold Storage; Big Sur, the artificial intelligence machines; and the Mobile Testing Lab. We photographed wide views of each area, single aisles, and details of the servers. Each area was absolutely incredible, both visually and intellectually. Imagine a football field lined with rows of servers, like the ones in the photos attached to this post. Now, multiply that by 4, 8, 12? In Cold Storage, I think each one of the racks holds 5 petabytes of data. That adds up to a lot of information.
Big Sur was fascinating. As it was explained to me, in very dumbed-down terms, this computer trains the others in artificial intelligence. In other words, if you search for a picture of a cat, this is the machine that looks through all the photos and decides what is a cat. That cat picture, by the way, ends up on a drive in cold storage when you’re done with it.
The Mobile Testing Lab was an area filled with large industrial lockers. Each one of the lockers contained several mobile phones. Every phone imaginable was represented in one of the lockers. This is where the phones are constantly run through testing to make sure that all of the software and apps are compatible with the various makes and models.
As a commercial photographer my job is rarely boring, but working in the brains of Facebook is definitely a highlight. Surrounded by the thoughts, words and images of billions of people in a single building, all co-existing in perfect harmony, is a pretty good feeling.