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Wireless multi-core chip saves data farm energy

Posted: 07 Jul 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:data farm  network-on-a-chip  data centre 

A wireless network on a computer chip can reduce energy consumption at huge data farms by as much as 20 per cent, thanks to a new research at the Washington State University.

Researchers led by Partha Pande, a computer engineering professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, have filed two patents on their wireless multi-core chip design, which could also speed up data processing. The team, which includes associate professors Deukhyoun Heo and Benjamin Belzer, has a paper on their work in the May issue of ACM Journal on Emerging Technologies in Computing Systems and is building a prototype.

While portable devices have gone efficiently wireless, the data farms that provide instant availability to text messages, video downloads, and more still use conventional metal wires on computer chips. These are incredibly wasteful for relatively long-range data exchange.

 Partha Pande

Partha Pande, research head and computer engineering professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

With ever-growing amounts of data, sustainable computing has become of increasing interest to researchers, industry leaders, and the public. As much as 99 per cent of the energy for huge data warehouses is lost between the power plant and a customer's iPhone, according to "Reinventing Fire," a book by Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute. One data centre can consume enough electricity to power a medium-sized town; in 2010, there were more than 2,000 of them in the United States, according to the New York Times.

The amount of computing that occurs every day is growing exponentially, contributing to significant cost concerns for companies and a strain on resources. Very large data centres are looking for ways to improve efficiency.

WSU researchers led the effort, in fact, to establish the first refereed journal specifically about sustainable computing, and Pande serves as editor (see

Most processors at data centres are multi-core, which means they are made up of several processing cores. One of their major performance limitations stems from the multi-hop nature of data exchange. That is, data has to move around several cores through wires, slowing down the processor and wasting energy.

Pande has been working on his idea for a network-on-a-chip technology since receiving his doctorate in 2005. The technology he developed allows for wireless links between cores, resulting in less energy loss and higher data transfer speed.

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