Energy Department Targets Data Center Efficiency Improvements

Published: June 15, 2016

Cloud ComputingData CenterDOEEnergy EfficiencyInnovationShared Services

The federal government anticipates billions of dollars in cost avoidance in coming years through agency data center streamlining. Estimates for government-wide potential savings through fiscal 2019 exceed $8 billion. Some agencies have yet to complete cost saving calculations, and technologies within data centers continue to evolve to meet demands. The Energy Department is looking to double data center energy efficiency in the next decade through deployment of novel network topologies enabled by replacing metal interconnect with integrated photonics technologies.

Mid-March 2016, the House of Representatives passed a bill to improve federal data center energy efficiency. In particular, the legislation called for the Department of Energy (DOE) to update its 2007 baseline for data center energy efficiency. The bill also called for the agency and collaborators to address developing and verifying metrics related to energy savings. That same month, the administration announced its Data Center Optimization Initiative, bringing data center in step with the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), requiring annual agency planning, as well as emphasizing cloud computing and shared services.

Private cloud services and shared services comprise two of the three approaches available to agencies to meet their fiscal 2018 data center goals. The third approach is to consolidate existing data centers and make them more efficient. The rising amount of energy consumed by data centers is driving a need to improve power consumption. One hurdle to increasing efficiency gains revolves around limits resulting from the metal interconnects used for information transmission between the devices within a data center.

In June 2016, the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced that up to $25 million in funding for a new program dedicated to innovating data center energy efficiency. The ENergy-efficient Light-wave Integrated Technology Enabling Networks that Enhance Datacenters (ENLITENED) program aims to double data center energy efficiency through improvements to data-communications network designs and methods. According to the announcement, the efforts will be focused on the application of integrated photonic technologies in future data centers.

The ENLITENED program will focus on four main areas: resolving problems with integration and packaging of photonic interconnects integration and packaging, devices that connect and transmit data (high radix photonic switches), creating new data center network architectures, and modeling and simulation of new data centers with a view to commercialization. If the ENLITENED effort achieves its targets, ARPA-E estimates the deployment of these technologies will double datacenter energy efficiency above what is currently possible. The program deadline for concept paper submission is July 25, 2016.