Wireless multicore chip offers data farm energy savings

July 03, 2014 // By Paul Buckley
A wireless network on a computer chip that claims to be able to reduce energy consumption at data farms by as much as 20 percent has been developed by 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 the wireless multicore 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 which are wasteful for relatively long-range data exchange.

With ever growing amounts of data, sustainable computing has become of increasing interest to researchers, industry leaders and the public. As much as 99 percent 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 center can consume enough electricity to power a medium-sized town.

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

Most processors at data centers are multicore. 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.

The technology Pande developed allows for wireless links between cores, resulting in less energy loss and higher data transfer speed.

The architecture uses wireless shortcuts to communicate between distant points on the computer chip. The single-hop shortcuts bypass intermediary nodes and directly connect one node to another.

Pande’s team designed a miniature cell tower system on the computer chips.  Similar to the way a cell phone works, the system includes a low-power transceiver, on-chip antennas