$50M in hand, Feds go looking for bleeding edge data center technology

The electricity consumed in data centers and telecom systems is three percent of the US system.

The data center
Alarmed by the amount of electricity data centers across the country are swallowing up, the government is offering up millions in research and development money to radically advance the energy efficiency of servers and telecommunications systems.

 The electricity consumed in data centers and telecom systems is already three percent of the US and growing rapidly.   In the face of growing global energy demand, uncertain energy supplies, the government is looking to spend $50 million (in $10 million contract slices) to develop new technologies to dramatically improve energy efficiency in information, communications technology (ICT).  The emphasis is on new technologies that can be commercialized within the next three to five years, and to demonstrate through field testing highly energy efficient, emerging technologies that are ready for or are in the initial stage of commercial introduction, the government stated in a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) this week. 

The Feds are focusing on three very broad areas:

 1.  Equipment and Software

Achieving high levels of energy performance will require novel approaches to the design and management of these hardware and software systems.  The key theme and approach in this area is to minimize heat generation in the first place.  Thus, energy will be saved by developing novel systems that generate less heat (i.e., new electronic circuitry which will use less energy by increasing chip output per unit of power used) or are impervious to heat, or by the use optics only.  These include, but are not limited to:

-Develop all-optical systems to increase energy efficiency.

-Advance ultra-low power circuits like multi-phase clock asynchronous circuits to increase energy efficiency.

-Utilize ultra-efficient nano-electronic circuitry, including nano-based information storage devices, wires and graphene-based systems. 

-Create hardened electronic equipment which can withstand temperature, humidity and particulate conditions outside the boundary of current generation electronics. 

 2.  Power Supply Chain

Data and telecommunications equipment require large quantities of electricity to be conditioned, converted, and delivered to a wide variety of components, including servers, switches, routers, and hard drives. The R&D proposals for power supply energy efficiency should address the following:

-Research and develop high-efficiency power conversion circuits which optimize server-based data center and telecom equipment.

-Develop special purpose chips, multiphase clocking, ternery/other processing modes, lower-power chips.

-Research the use of optical switching to eliminate many conversion steps & losses (Also noted under hardware and software).

-R&D of superconducting components.

-Efficiency optimized control systems for power conversion.

 3.  Cooling

Cooling is believed to account for 25% or more of all power consumed by information technology, telecommunications, and data centers.   The cooling of server-based telephone central offices and data centers can be made more energy efficient by the following:

-Create advanced component level cooling technologies.

-Develop mitigation techniques to reduce the probability of failures associated with "free" cooling

-Identify and create effective uses of low-quality waste heat generated.

 Contracting vendors and researchers must define the capabilities of the new technologies by conducting studies, exploring relevant scientific concepts, analyzing data, and performing other appropriate activities. The research, which will be made public by the Department of Energy, will translate end-user needs into preliminary technical specifications and clearly define the technology's market and technical risks as well as its energy, environmental, and economic advantages. These findings are expected to support a solid, credible justification for moving the technology forward, the Feds stated.

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