Academia, industry team up for better green data centers - By Doug Mohney
Funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF), three universities have teamed up with 15 companies to launch a "holistic approach" collaborative research center for energy efficiency. Bravo!
Binghamton University will be the "focal point" for the Industry/University Cooperative Research Center in Energy-Efficient Electronic Systems (E3S) consortium, according to the school's website, with Villanova University and University of Texas at Arlington also having support centers.
Fifteen companies "representing the entire supply chain for data centers" have signed up as members including Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, Commscope, Bloomberg, General Electric, Corning Inc., Endicott Interconnect Technologies, Emerson Network Power and Emerson Delaware Valley Liebert, Verizon, Comcast and Steel Orca; it's very cool that Facebook (much berated by coal-and-nuclear-powered-server using Greenpeace) keep bubbling up on its own when it comes to greener data centers and energy efficiency.
Everyone is going to work together to look at energy efficiency problems holistically, from HVAC and cooling to software and server design. Predictions include savings of millions of dollars and a much "greener" electronics industry.
At first crack, E3S will focus on data centers, seeking ways to allow systems to monitor and regulate the amount of energy they use. Since data centers suck down 2.5 percent of the total amount of America's national energy expenditure and the number of data centers is expected to increase due to everything from streaming video to medical records, this qualifies as low-hanging fruit.
Lessons learned are expected to offer solutions to practical energy consumption problems in all areas of the electronics industry, "from cell phones and tablets to gaming consoles and e-commerce," boasts the release.
The University of Texas at Arlington has been focusing on data center cooling for a number of years, so it will have a focus on the whole HVAC arena, including air side economizers, sustainability, effects of airborne contaminations on data center equipment, and cooling technologies for future high density interconnect devices.
The first official meeting of the E3S center will happen next month (December 2011) to review an initial lineup of research projects members have identified as promising. Projects under review include activities associated with energy-efficient scheduling of workload, servers and cooling systems, the design of micro-scale servers, analyzing the effects of airflow and dynamics, and compact models activities.
Needless to say, there are all kinds of interesting things going on to improve data center efficiency. It would be nice if E3S setups up a university competition or two to get some ideas thrown out there, like the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon. I really think a competitive data center server design challenge would bring a lot of ideas to the table and get undergraduate students more deeply involved. After all, everyone wants to have bragging rights on who has the best engineering department and coolest projects.