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Greener and leaner: Improving data centre efficiency

Data centres account for roughly 2 percent of all electricity use in the U.S. This is an expanding figure.

Photo: © AFP
Photo: © AFP

To move data from place to place at speed and with no loss of connectivity requires major technological engineering projects. Key requirements include scalability, connectivity, and cost-efficiency.

Data centres operate as distributed networks, with many web and mobile applications implemented on a single server. When a user sends a requests to an application, bits of stored data are pulled from hundreds or thousands of services across as many servers.

Before sending a response, the application must wait for the slowest service to process the data. This lag time is known as tail latency and this presents a challenge for many data centre managers.

In most data centres, there’s a trade-off between efficiency and latency. Some firms are finding ways to overcome these challenges. An example of one initiative is QLoop, which is a massive 40 mile hyperscale fibre ring connecting a 2,100 acre data centre development located in Maryland to Northern Virginia’s Data Centre Ecosystem. The system has been developed by the firm Quantum Loophole, Inc.

This is the second of two Potomac River crossings for the QLoop network conduit system. The system is designed to hold 34 conduits with full capacity of more than 235,000 strands of fiber. Data will move at under one half millisecond to complete a round trip. The bore under the Potomac River goes more than 90 feet below the river bedrock.

Discussing the technicalities, Josh Snowhorn Founder and CEO of Quantum Loophole said: “This has been by far one of the most challenging projects I have done in my entire career, with each river crossing taking about six-months to complete.”

Another important consideration is environmental protection. Data centres account for roughly 2 percent of all electricity use in the U.S. This is an expanding figure as the number of data centres has risen rapidly as data demand has soared.

In the U.S., home to many firms that produce and consume vast amounts of data including Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Google, there are more than 2,600 data centres.

To help to address the environmental impact, researchers at Oregon State University and Baylor University have made a breakthrough toward reducing the energy consumption of the photonic chips used in data centres and supercomputers.

This involves utilizing a new, ultra-energy-efficient method to compensate for temperature variations that degrade photonic chips. These chips are set to form the high-speed communication backbone of future data centres and supercomputers. The circuitry in photonic chips uses photons rather than the electrons that move through conventional computer chips.

Moving at the speed of light, photons enable the extremely rapid, energy-efficient transmission of data.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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