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Cisco CTO: Data centres to bump into power hurdle

Posted: 11 Dec 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cisco  data center  Amazon  Facebook  Google 

According to a senior Cisco engineering manager, the U.S. is lacking in terms of funding the basic research needed to avoid looming power consumption problems in data centres. Presently, the world's largest Web giants are planning to build multiple data centres that could consume as much 120MW each by 2020. Breakthroughs in technologies such as silicon photonics could help reduce the need for such facilities, stated Dave Ward, CTO of engineering at Cisco Systems.

"As a society we are not investing to get to the root of major power problems," Ward said, speaking at a press event where Cisco technologists gave their predictions for the future.

Today the largest data centres for Web giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google each draw 40-50MW. All the largest players have plans on the drawing board for facilities two to three times that size, he said.

"That's as much energy as it takes to power a city of 500,000 people just to handle our data," Ward said. Finding ways to build more power efficient data centres "will be one of the most important questions for getting to 2020."

Silicon photonics is seen as one approach for lowering power consumption in data centres. Cisco, Intel, Mellanox and others are developing silicon photonics products, but they are not expected until 2014 or later. Today's data centres are starting to adopt 10Gb/s Ethernet with moves to 40GE planned through 2018, Ward noted.

The power problem also exists within chips. "We may break through to where we are leaking more power than we use."

Among other predictions at the event, Ward said traditional switched telephony equipment may become obsolete by 2020, as Ethernet-based systems become the norm.

- Rick Merritt
  EE Times

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