NYSERDA contract to support Binghamton University data center research


Over the next two years, researchers at Binghamton University and partnered institutions will help protect life by optimizing the work of data centers. A $437,270 two-year project backed by a $247,533 contract from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will help improve the design, energy efficiency and information-processing efficacy of such centers.

Just now approaching adolescence, data centers have become the heart and central nervous system of the information age. Thousands of data centers all process information critically important to much that drives our daily lives from world financial markets, and government and military operations, to business and industry, worldwide shipping and transportation, health and human services, and entertainment even organized athletics and religion. Without these data storage and processing strongholds, the Internet, for example, would be reduced to a network where end users would share sketchy information available to few and meaningful to even fewer.

The project, “Optimizing Airflow Management Protocols in New York Data Centers,” will team researchers at the University, Georgia Tech, Lawrence Berkley Labs and IBM to survey, model, and test design improvements to an existing Manhattan data center, in hopes of devising new design strategies to employ the world over.

Peter R. Smith, NYSERDA's president, said the project is one of several high-tech, but fundamentally important, research projects sponsored by the public benefit corporation. “These data centers are high electric-demand nerve centers whose utility service is large,” Smith said. “They require stable and secure electric power for machine operation and cooling. Considering New York's prime financial center role, NYSERDA seeks to find ways to serve these centers efficiently and securely, and then replicate those designs at universities and other large computing power centers around New York.”

Bahgat Sammakia, BU interim vice president for research and director of the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center, has spent much of his career working to improve thermal management strategies in electronics packaging by devising ways to keep computers and other electronics cool. He believes improvements to the data centers on the order of 20 to 25 percent are “very doable.”

To reach that goal, University researchers will build numerical, computer models of the Manhattan data center during the project's first year. Their models will then be used to enhance the ability to predict the efficacy of design changes proposed throughout the remainder of the project.

Researchers at Georgia Tech will confirm modeling accuracy by building an actual room at scale and taking appropriate measurements. In year two, researchers will take measurements in the actual data center and will write a design guide to help improve energy efficiency in all data centers. IBM, an established leader in energy metrics, will mentor modeling and measurements, while Lawrence Berkley Labs, a prominent name in data center research and design in California, will help benchmark the Manhattan data center.

Last Updated: 9/17/13