All those class reunion pictures and photos from grandma's 86th birthday party posted to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) are in a nice repository for storage, but once you put them up there, you rarely look at them again. In fact, it's rare for anyone to look at them.
Since it's a post-and-forget sort of situation, the social networking giant says you don't need to be able to recall those pictures in a flash. Low performance memory would be best because the data rarely changes. In fact, it wants the memory industry to produce junk flash, or what it calls "cold flash."
According to industry reports, Facebook's director of infrastructure recently told a group of flash industry executives just to "make the worst flash possible."
Because the data stored on it is rarely accessed, the flash doesn't need the lightning speed and reliability that most memory users want. Instead, the "write once -- read never" type of data that Facebook users employ means the cold flash memory only needs to be "dense and cheap." You'd hardly experience any difference if, for some reason, you did want to look at that nutty picture of Fluffy that you took in the shower.
Reductions in costs are driving Facebook to create whole new paradigms in computing. Earlier this year, Intel and Advanced Micro Designs, along with two other chip makers, got behind the social networking site's drive to create specs for a new drop-in-and-go type of processor that separates it from the motherboard. By doing so, it won't need two separate motherboards, but will simply be able to swap out an Intel processor for an AMD version, or vice versa.
It's why Facebook won't consider using solid-state drives for storing data like other Internet companies do. Indeed, where Amazon.com, Dropbox, and others are pushing the storage wars toward SSD's, despite their initial higher cost, Facebook is heading in the other direction. It's data needs aren't those of the others who look for instantaneous recall. Since all memory devices degrade over time, the more they're read and written over, the more SSDs will eventually fail. Cold flash, on the other hand, might have even greater endurance despite its lower quality, because it will hardly ever be engaged to read-write the data.
Facebook gets much of its flash memory from Fusion-io (UNKNOWN:FIO.DL), where it accounts for more than a third of the memory maker's total revenues, and it was buying up a lot more of its flash in the fiscal fourth quarter than Fusion-io had anticipated. While the current quarter is going to see a bit of a drop-off in demand from Facebook, the flash-memory maker expects to be able to keep the strong relationship going in the future. Whether it will be the one making the "worst possible flash" remains to be seen.
I recently closed my Facebook account after revelations of its cozy relationship with the government on compromising the privacy of its users. I'm also looking at ways to minimize my exposure to other companies that also have low regard for user privacy (I'm looking specifically at you, Google), and Facebook swears that once a user deletes his data, it vanishes from everywhere on its servers.
Hopefully that's the case, and since I can't even remember what pictures of drunken debauchery I posted and have long since forgotten, maybe even the NSA won't be able to pull them up, either.