Put more bounce in your data center

January 6th, 2012 by · 3 Comments

This article was authored by John C. Tanner, and was originally posted on telecomasia.net.

Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Intel have devised a technique to speed up data traffic between servers inside a data center by bouncing it off the ceiling – literally.

The proposed solution is aimed at a significant bottleneck within a data center: moving data between different servers within the site. Servers are usually connected via wired links, and adding more wiring is both expensive and impractical. A wireless broadband approach with short-range technologies like 60-GHz Wi-Fi is relatively simpler, but comes with its own challenges, like line-of-sight and interference issues.
The research team, led by UCSB associate professor of computer science Heather Zheng, says they’ve found a way around the problem by bouncing the wireless signals off the ceiling of the data center, according to Technology Review:
Bouncing the beams off the ceiling directly to their targets not only ensures direct point-to-point communication between antennas but also reduces the chances that any two beams will cross and cause interference. “That’s very important when you have a high density of signals,” she says.
Flat metal plates placed on the ceiling can provide nearly perfect reflection. “You also need an absorber material on the rack to make sure the signal doesn’t bounce back up,” says Zheng.
Zheng told TR the bounce technique can improve data transmission speeds by 30%.
However, the 60-GHz solution is only in the simulation stage for now – Zheng and her team are now building a prototype data center for practical testing.

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Categories: Datacenter · Wireless

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3 Comments So Far

  • mhammett says:

    As a wireless guy, this sounds like a terrible idea.

    • Rob Powell says:

      Speaking as an engineer, it sure does sound like a nightmare to operate. But the idea is interesting nonetheless. 🙂

      • mhammett says:

        Maybe it’ll allow for other developments I can use elsewhere. Maybe it brings down the cost of 60 Ghz chipsets and other equipment.

        BTW: the comment subscriptions work great. I got a bunch of them last night. 🙂

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