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02-21-2012

Clarkson University in First Phase of Green Distributed Performance-Optimized Data Center Project with NYSERDA, AMD, HP, GE and Others

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/green-pod.jpg .]

The first meeting of researchers who hope to transform the data center industry with distributed networks and renewable energy was held on the Clarkson University campus late last month.

Clarkson University President Tony Collins (center, in dark suit) welcomes industry partners to kick off the first meeting of the green distributed performance-optimized data center project. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has partnered with Clarkson University, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), HP, GE and other private businesses to demonstrate how a network of wind, solar, hydro and other renewable-powered data centers could create a new model for data center and renewable energy operations.

The kick-off meeting was held at Clarkson University under the auspices of its Center for Advanced Material Processing.

Partners from industry attended the meeting, as the outcomes of this project can have significant influence into their enterprise product portfolio and future business sector expansion.

The project, shaped around ideas from the AMD Office of Research and Extreme Concepts and Clarkson University faculty, is led by Professors Pier Marzocca and Ajit Achuthan from Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, Kerop Janoyan from Civil and Environmental Engineering, Jeanna Matthews from Computer Science, and Stephen Bird from Political Science.

The interdisciplinary project makes use of a distributed network of data centers to make this high-energy-demand technology more energy-efficient and cost-effective than current methods.

If successful and deployed on a larger scale, this project could bring significant energy savings to an industry that can consume one megawatt of electricity at times of peak operation. That’s enough to power about a thousand average homes.

Clarkson engineers and students will experiment with the concept of managing data through a network of servers powered by clean energy, such as wind turbines or photovoltaic (solar electric) systems.

Backers envision the creation of a clean-energy-driven Performance Optimized Data Center (POD) system that could be available on a large scale to serve any potential customer -- colleges, hospitals, corporations or any entity that requires data processing.

The distributed -- or “cloud computing” -- network is key to this project. For example, sites could be installed at wind turbine sites in Albany and Buffalo. If the wind is blowing in Buffalo, processing would be routed there. If Albany is generating more power, the processing would be routed there.

Sending data over fiber-optic networks is far more energy efficient than moving power over transmission lines, even if the data is in another part of the country. And, the distance would be invisible to the computer user doing the data processing.

NYSERDA is investing $300,000 in the project, which will leverage an additional $374,000 in private funds.

Clarkson will be supported by business partners that will contribute equipment or expertise to the project. Principal partners include AMD and HP. Other companies taking part in the project include GE Global Research Center, Niskayuna, N.Y.; Custom Electronics, Oneonta, N.Y.; AWS TruePower, Albany, N.Y.; Vento Tek Inc., Potsdam, N.Y.; Timbre Inc. Potsdam, N.Y.; Intertek, Cortland, N.Y.; ARI Green Energy, Yulee, Fla. and Ballard Power Systems Inc., Burnaby, B.C., Canada.

Given the rapid growth in demand for data processing, this innovative approach to data center design and operation could help offset the growing power loads required by the data center industry while providing a highly cost-effective way to use renewable energy sources.

An average commercial-sized data center consumes around one megawatt of electricity during normal operations. In New York State, data centers account for three percent of all electricity consumed, and demand in this sector is expected to double over the next five years.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University President Tony Collins (center, in dark suit) welcomes industry partners to kick off the first meeting of the green distributed performance-optimized data center project. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has partnered with Clarkson, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), HP, GE and other private businesses to demonstrate how a network of wind, solar, hydro and other renewable-powered data centers could create a new model for data center and renewable energy operations.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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