Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Data Center Goes to DC (Direct Current not the US Capital)

Yesterday, a consortium of researchers from the public and private sectors embarked on a real-world experiment to gauge whether large computing facilities can operate on less power if they cut alternating current (AC) out of the equation.

At the University of California, San Diego, engineers switched a set of servers in a campus data center to operate continuously on 380-volt direct current (DC) – as part of a project that allows researchers to track in great detail the energy savings that servers and data centers can hope to achieve through a variety of architectural and procedural efficiencies, including the use of DC power.

The experiment at UC San Diego is part of Project GreenLight, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative that has deployed a modular data center on campus with sensors and other instruments to measure the energy efficiency of information and communication technologies – and to help researchers build greener IT systems and software.

“The UC San Diego campus has made substantial investments for energy savings,” said Thomas A. DeFanti, principal investigator on Project GreenLight and a senior research scientist in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). “The switch to DC powering of servers holds great potential on a campus where supercomputers and other high-tech facilities represent a disproportionately large share of energy consumption."

It is estimated that companies could save billions of dollars each year in capital costs and ongoing energy savings by using all-DC distribution in their data centers.

“The coupling of renewable energy systems that generate DC power with large consumers of DC is the wave of the future for energy efficiency,” said Byron Washom, director of strategic energy initiatives at UC San Diego. “Our contracted 2.8 MW fuel cell that utilizes renewable methane gas will only occupy the land area of a tennis court, yet it produces more DC power than that required by the San Diego Supercomputer Center.”

Read the full story on the Calit2 Web site.

Check out the Calit2 Flikr photo stream.

Above photo caption: UCSD electrical technician flips the final switch on the GreenLight Instrument to convert two of its racks to DC-DC power.

Glove Box in a NanoEngineering Lab

There is a glove box in Shirley Meng's NanoEngineering Lab at UC San Diego, but it's not the kind of glove box that stores gloves. Instead, you have stick your hands and arms through enormous black gloves in order to touch anything that is in the box. And once your black-gloved hands are in the box, you have to put on ANOTHER pair of gloves before you can do any work. Below are a couple of photos of students from the Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion. More photos on Flikr, at the Shirley Meng that accompany the story about the new NASA contract to Meng and NEI Corp.