Datacenters are a critical component of the modern internet, responsible for processing and storing tremendous amounts of data in the “cloud.” Datacenters also provide the computational power needed for handling “big data,” a growing segment of the U.S. economy. Currently, datacenters consume more than 2.5% of U.S. electricity and this figure is projected to double in about eight years due to the expected growth in data traffic. There are many approaches to improving the energy efficiency of datacenters, but these strategies will be limited by the efficiency with which information travels along metal interconnects within the devices in the datacenter—all the way down to the computer chips that process information. Unlike metal interconnects, photonic interconnects do not rely on electrons flowing through metal to transmit information. Instead, these devices send and receive information in the form of photons—light—enabling far greater speed and bandwidth at much lower energy and cost per bit of data. The integration of photonic interconnects will enable new network architectures and photonic network topologies that hold the potential to double overall datacenter efficiency over the next decade.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Columbia University will develop a new datacenter architecture co-designed with state-of-the-art silicon photonic technologies to reduce system-wide energy consumption. The team’s approach will improve data movement between processor/memory and will optimize resource allocation throughout the network to minimize idle times and wasted energy. Data transfer in datacenters occurs over a series of interconnects that link different server racks of the datacenter together. Networks in modern mega-scale datacenters are becoming increasingly complicated. One by-product of this complexity is that on average a large number of these interconnections are idle due to application specific resource bottlenecks, effectively reducing the energy efficiency of the datacenter. The Columbia team will develop a solution that allows for dynamic resource re-allocation using unified photonic interconnects and a network fabric architecture that untangles computing and memory resources and allows bandwidth to be steered to appropriate areas of the network. The design addresses the stresses placed on systems by real-time communication-intensive applications. By precisely steering bandwidth and workload, idling is reduced and only the required amount of computation power, memory, capacity, and interconnectivity bandwidth are made available over the needed time period
If successful, developments from ENLITENED projects will result in an overall doubling in datacenter energy efficiency in the next decade through deployment of new photonic network topologies.
The United States is home to much of the world’s datacenter infrastructure. Photonic networks add resilience that can bolster the energy security of this critical driver of economic activity.
Reducing the overall energy consumption of datacenters cuts energy-related emissions per bit of data transmitted and processed.
Photonic networks can lower the costs associated with operating datacenters, improving American economic competitiveness in this fast-developing area.