Wireless Data Centers Could Save Energy, Cost Less to Operate

clayirving/CC BY-ND 2.0

Computer scientists at Cornell University have come up with a wireless design for cloud data centers that they say performs better while greatly reducing energy consumption and costs. As cloud computing becomes more and more common and the data centers that support "the cloud" expand and multiply, finding ways to make these data centers more energy efficient is incredibly important.

The energy-saving Cornell design relies on two major differences from conventional data centers. One is a 60 gigahertz wireless transceiver that was developed by Georgia Tech and based on an inexpensive chip technology. It can transmit 10 meters from the source and without interfering with nearby activity. The second major difference is the shape and layout of the servers themselves. Instead of square stacks, the servers are round and stacked like a layer cake. These two differences allow the servers to transmit data in a much more efficient manner.

© Cornell University

Cornell University explains:

In a conventional data center, servers are stacked in square racks like pizza boxes in a delivery truck. On top of every stack is a "switch" -- a fairly expensive and power-hungry box that routs signals in and out of the servers and sends them off on wires to other servers, based on their electronic addresses.

In the proposed design, servers are mounted vertically in cylindrical racks several tiers high. Think of a wedding cake in which every tier is the same diameter, and one wedge-shaped slice of any tier represents a server. A 60 GHz transceiver is located at the outside and inside end of each server. With racks arranged in rows, each rack has line-of-sight wireless connectivity to eight other racks (except at the edges), and transceivers at the inner ends connect servers within the rack.

Instead of depending on switches, servers do their own routing, based on the physical location of the destination. Signals pass rack to rack, each time moving in the direction that looks like the shortest route across the floor

© Cornell University

The configuration is called a Cayley Data Center, named for the mathematician Arthur Cayley whose work inspired the design. The researchers found that the Cayley Data Center could slash energy consumption to 1/12th of a conventional data center and costs would be cut by the same, mainly due to the use of the 60GHz transceiver that eliminates switches and wires and makes it all run more efficiently.

The set up is also more resistant to failure because even if an entire rack of servers died, the signal would just go around it. The researchers found that 59 percent of the servers in a data center would have to fail before communication would break down.

"We argue that 60 GHz could revolutionize the simplicity of integrating and maintaining data centers," the researchers concluded in their paper.

Tags: Energy Efficiency | Technology

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