Reduce carbon footprint
Research garners $2.3M toward faster processing
PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State University researchers are developing wireless computer chips that could save energy, speed up data processing and reduce the carbon footprint of large data centers like those run by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.
Huge computer data warehouses, many located along the Columbia River, churn through terabytes of data daily for companies, using large amounts of the relatively cheap energy from Northwest hydropower.
Mega consumers of energy
According to the New York Times, data centers for Yahoo and Microsoft, using mostly hydroelectric power, consumed 41.8 million watts in 2011, which is enough energy to power around 25,000 homes. The data centers also use diesel generators for reliable backup power, which can impact air quality.
"Our long-term goal is to reduce the heat distribution and carbon footprint of major data processing companies in order to help create a sustainable environment,” said Partha Pande, the team leader and associate professor in the WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).
These data centers and other enterprises that require high-performance computers run on multicore processors, which are traditionally wired systems that require data to move around several cores.
$2.3 million NSF and Army funding
In addition to being a slow process, moving data from core to core uses a lot of energy.
"We are developing new technology through the on-chip wireless network design to increase the speed of processors while lowering the amount of power used,” Pande said.
Since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2005, Pande has focused his research on network-on-chip technology that allows several embedded cores to exist on a single chip.
The network-on-chip architecture Pande is developing with Deuk Hyoun Heo and Benjamin Belzer is wireless, allowing it to quickly input and output a high bandwidth of data with less power usage. Heo and Belzer are associate professors in EECS.
In February 2011, the team received a $645,000 research infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a wireless network-on-chip test and measurement laboratory. In August, the team received a four-year NSF grant of $800,000 to begin developing the basic design method for the chips.
At the same time, the researchers also received a three-year $375,000 grant from the Army Research Office and, in October, another three-year NSF grant for $490,000. Heo is the primary investigator of the new NSF grant since it is focused on creating wireless links and he specializes in circuits and transceivers. Pande also leads the overall system architecture design on this grant.
Four- to five-year goal
The team has published several research papers on its work and hopes to have a prototype developed in four to five years. Groups at the University of Louisiana and Ohio University are working on similar projects, but the WSU team is the first to demonstrate the novel architectural concept of the chip. The Georgia Institute of Technology and the Rochester Institute of Technology are also collaborators on this project.
"The implications of the technology will be felt around the world,” Pande said.
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