Blumenthal - Next Gen Cloud Computing

Prof. Dan Blumenthal, UCSB and Microsoft partner for Next-generation cloud computing

illustration of clouds

UC Santa Barbara one of six universities in the world to be selected as an inaugural member of Microsoft’s Optics for the Cloud Research Alliance

The cloud — a globally distributed internet-based computer network system — is increasingly being used by entities of all kinds to store, access, and process data, enabling computing beyond the bounds of local computers and hard drives. While the cloud today is built with a sophisticated infrastructure of data centers connected by fiber optic networks, it is evolving. With an eye to growing the cloud further, Microsoft Research has assembled a cross-disciplinary team of scientists to explore how optics can be used not just to transmit data, but also to encode it, enhancing speed and energy efficiency.

UC Santa Barbara is one of six universities in the world and the only institution in the United States to be selected as an inaugural member of Microsoft’s Optics for the Cloud Research Alliance. The other five are in Europe.

“It’s a great opportunity to be a part of this important initiative and to work with world-class researchers on the critical optics research problems for the cloud of the future,” said Daniel Blumenthal, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who also serves as director of the Terabit Optical Ethernet Center and represents UCSB in the alliance. “It is a tremendous honor to be the only U.S. university involved.”

“As our first U.S. partner, UC Santa Barbara brings a wealth of knowledge in the area of optical integration and devices and a long history of impactful research. We look forward to working together with them and our other partners to rethink cloud infrastructure and further this field of research,” said Hitesh Ballani, senior principal research manager at Microsoft Research.

The alliance focuses on three major cloud resources — storage, networking, and computing — with projects intended to build upon the latest optical advancements to support them. In Blumenthal’s project, he is investigating how ultra-fast optical switching and communications within the cloud’s data centers can provide better and more predictable performance with higher reliability at lower cost. The challenge, he says, will be met by integrated photonics solutions, complex photonic circuits that reduce box-sized systems responsible for processing and transferring light down to the size of a microchip.

COE/CLS Convergence Magazine (F19) - "UCSB and Microsoft partner for Next-generation Cloud Computing" (page 7)

COE/CLS Convergence magazine (F19)