A green partnership of academia and industry look at data center efficiencies

Three universities team with the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Facebook to tackle energy efficiencies, starting with the data center.


I love to see the tech industry partner with higher ed institutions. There are so many good reasons for these types of collaborations: industry can positively impact the up-and-coming workforce, universities can parlay their research into reality, research gets much needed funding, innovation occurs.

So I thought I’d share the news about this collaboration, a partnership between three universities and 15 companies, all working together on a research center focused on energy efficiencies for the electronics industry.

The initiative – dubbed the Industry/University Cooperative Research Center in Energy-Efficient Electronic Systems, or the NSF I/UCRC E3S Center – is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF), but the primary support will come from 15 companies including Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, General Electric, Corning Inc., Emerson Network Power and Emerson Delaware Valley Liebert, Verizon and Comcast.

Binghamton University, State University of New York and its partners Villanova University and the University of Texas at Arlington are the three universities involved. The research initiative is focusing on developing methods for operating electronic systems and cooling equipment so they can be dynamic self-sensing and self-regulating systems that are predictive, stable and verified in real time. Computer scientists and mechanical and electrical engineers will all work together on the research.

In this article in Discover-e, Binghamton University’s online site, Bahgat Sammakia, E3S director and interim VP for research at Binghamton, said the value of the initiative is to allow researchers to look at energy efficiency problems holistically, “from all angles and across many disciplines,” to find solutions.

Out of the gate, E3S will zero in on data centers. Researchers will work on developing algorithms to control cooling resources and to assist expert system schedulers to schedule and/or migrate workload and simultaneously adjust the cooling system output to achieve optimal energy consumption. They will also look at policies around scheduling and workload prediction and management that can be interpreted and enforced at the software level, including kernel scheduling policies to operate the IT equipment within pre-specified energy limits.

According to the NSF’s site, in the program’s first five years problem-oriented research related to the industry’s search for optimizing the energy-efficiency of electronic systems and data centers will be addressed. Efforts will cover computing (including software and microarchitectural techniques), innovative cooling solutions and thermal management techniques and, adaptive, pro-active and scalable control system concepts.

Each of the universities bring tremendous research labs and platforms. Binghamton University has amassed a vast infrastructure for conducting energy efficient systems research and is opening a new $30 million facility in 2013 to advance that effort. There is technical expertise and infrastructure at the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC) which include an on-site demonstration facility that allows for rigorous and replicable testing of new technologies. Labs are equipped with such instrumentation as thermal cycling chambers, temperature and humidity chambers, a thermal shock chamber, and more. The University of Texas at Arlington has an electronic cooling lab with equipment related to air cooling, and there’s a Nanotechnology Research & Teaching Facility (NanoFab) with a 10,000-square-foot clean room. The Villanova University Laboratory for Advanced Thermal and Fluid Systems is designed for fundamental investigations in thermal transport and characterization of thermal management in electronics, energy, and propulsion systems.

The E3S will also open its doors for training opportunities, according to the Binghamton University article. The first meeting will be held in December and participants will review an initial lineup of research projects.

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