Bowers – Data Ctr Efficiency

Facebook has provided the Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE) in UCSB’s COE with a three-year, $1.5 million grant to support research aimed at enhancing energy efficiency in data centers and in artificial intelligence

photo of a data center

From the COE Convergence article "Facebook, IEE Partner to Pursue Data Center Efficiency"

Researchers at the IEE and Facebook will partner to investigate advanced energy-efficient data-center infrastructure, including low- power optical (light-based) interconnects for compute networks and machine learning (ML), in the interest of reducing Facebook’s carbon footprint. The company has committed to reaching net zero emissions across its value chain by 2030.

”We are deeply grateful to Facebook for their generosity and support of the university and the Institute for Energy Efficiency,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the College of Engineering. “This gift will drive collaborative discoveries of potentially world-changing solutions to substantially reduce the energy required to drive vital next- generation data centers and applications of machine learning.”

“For more than ten years, Facebook has been focused on designing, building, and operating some of the most efficient data- center facilities in the world,” said Rachel Peterson, VP of Data Center Strategy at Facebook. “We are thrilled that our research team will partner with UCSB’s Institute for Energy Efficiency to help drive innovation and bring energy efficiency to the next level.”

Facebook will also help develop research projects and provide IEE researchers with insight gained from their prior experience designing and operating data centers. The tech leader currently has eight operational data-center sites in the U.S., with five more announced but not yet operating.

“Facebook is a world leader in data-center efficiency, and we are happy to partner with them to drive the next generation of technologies to deliver efficiency gains,” said IEE Director and ECE Professor John Bowers, a distinguished professor of materials and electrical and computer engineering, and an internationally renowned authority on silicon photonics and optoelectronics.

Data centers have become much more energy efficient in recent years, but new technologies are still urgently needed to offset the growing demand being driven by ML, AI, and video. With the partnership powering its research endeavors, IEE expects to make significant headway on two grand challenges: achieving multiple orders-of-magnitude improvement in the efficiency of data centers and doing the same in terms of AI/ML workloads.

To that end, IEE researchers are targeting efficiency improvements in multiple areas. Computer science professor Timothy Sherwood is leading efforts to develop new hardware and architecture to improve the efficiency of servers and processes and reduce power used for cooling. Computer science assistant professor William Wang is working with colleagues to improve algorithmic efficiency, which is expected to yield significant reductions in the data-center power footprint associated with AI and ML applications. Further, IEE’s world- class photonics faculty are focused on unlocking the next wave of efficiency breakthroughs associated with interconnects, the essential technologies that provide high-bandwidth connections among compute nodes and to users.

“Last summer, we collaborated with the Facebook AI Group to build an inference engine for Natural Language Processing that achieved ten times the energy efficiency of the current model,” said Wang. “It further demonstrates the importance and potential impact of working with industrial partners to understand real-world problems and connect scientific research and engineering.”

In recognition of Facebook’s gift, the university will name one of the experimental data-center laboratories in Henley Hall the “Facebook Data Center Energy Efficiency Lab.” A dedication and recognition ceremony will be scheduled at a later date, once state and county public health restrictions related to the coronavirus are lifted.

COE/CLS Convergence magazine (S21) - "Facebook, IEE Partner to Pursue Data Center Efficiency" (pg. 5)

COE/CLS Convergence magazine (S21)