HP Labs Looks to Reinvent Green Data Center

Hewlett-Packard's research division is embarking on several research projects that will help develop new sustainable IT technology.

HP Labs wants to reinvent what it means to design, build and sustain a green data center.

The research arm of Hewlett-Packard announced an ambitious agenda June 4 to develop a whole new series of technologies that will reduce the carbon footprint of data centers by 75 percent, replace the copper wiring on microprocessors with light pulses and develop new software and services to measure energy use and carbon emissions.

The goal of these three research initiatives is to create what HP Labs calls sustainable IT technologies for the modern data center. Earlier this year, HP Labs announced that it would refocus and streamline its labs division research into five key areas with sustainability being one of those initiatives.

The first part of this new sustainability research will focus on reducing the amount of electricity needed to power a data center.

HP researchers are looking to reduce the total carbon footprint of the data center by 75 percent and cut the cost of running 24-hour data centers in a time of skyrocketing energy prices. Research also believes that it can use the result of its labors to create "smart" buildings and factories that use less electricity.

IBM has also announced a large green initiative - Project Big Green - that focuses on reducing the emissions from data centers.

No More Wires

The second part of the research will look at replacing the traditional copper wires used in microprocessors with light pulses called photonic interconnections. This technology not only reduces heat, especially as companies add more and more processing cores to each new generation of microprocessors, but it also allows data to travel greater distances much faster.

In addition to HP Labs, other researchers from IBM and Intel have also begun exploring how light can replace copper wiring within processors and allow companies to create systems that have hundreds of processing cores on a single chip. In March, Sun Microsystems received a $44 million grant from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to develop methods of using lasers instead of wires to connect processors together.

Finally, HP researchers will work to develop new software and services that will create metrics to measure a range of energy uses within the data center from carbon emissions, total energy use and energy consumption.

Again, HP Labs is looking beyond the data center and into the ways other businesses and their infrastructures can benefit from this research. One tool that HP scientists plan to use is called the Lifetime Exergy Advisor, an application HP Labs developed with the University of California at Berkeley.

The software helps measure the amount of energy that goes into a product from the time that product is first created to the time it's manufactured, shipped, used and then finally recycled.

HP Labs also plans to create an online community it calls a "sustainability hub," which will allow researchers, experts and others to share research, methodologies and information. The hub will be available to the public sometime in 2009, according to HP.