Wednesday, February 3, 2021

UC Santa Barbara’s Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE) and Facebook are announcing a new partnership that will accelerate research into energy-efficient data centers and artificial intelligence (AI). Facebook, a leader in developing, building, and operating highly reliable and efficient data centers, will provide a three-year, $1.5 million grant in support of the institute’s pioneering research.

Through this partnership, IEE will investigate advanced energy-efficient data center infrastructure including low-power optical interconnects for compute networks and machine learning (ML) with reduced carbon footprint. Committed to 100% renewable energy since 2018, Facebook has long believed that the first step is always to use the least amount of energy possible by building and operating the most energy efficient data centers in the industry. Facebook has committed to reaching net zero emissions across its value chain in 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 10 years, Facebook has been focused on designing, building and operating some of the most efficient data center facilities in the world. We are thrilled that our research team will partner with UCSB’s Institute for Energy Efficiency to help drive innovation,” said Rachel Peterson, VP of Data Center Strategy at Facebook. “We look forward to working together to bring energy efficiency to the next level.”

Facebook will also help develop research projects and provide IEE researchers with insight from their prior experiences designing and operating data centers. The tech leader currently has eight operational data center sites in the US, with five more sites that have been announced but not yet begun operating.

“Facebook is a world leader in data center efficiency, and we are happy to partner with them to further deliver the next generation of technologies to deliver efficiency gains,” said IEE Director John Bowers, a distinguished professor of materials and electrical and computer engineering. “They will provide us with the problems that need to be addressed, and we will work together to solve them.”

“We are excited to launch this research collaboration with IEE,” said Katharine Schmidtke, Facebook’s director of sourcing and research lead for the UCSB IEE partnership. “We hope our contribution will help foster research in data center energy efficiency to transform technology in computing and communications and to drive efficiency in key workloads such as AI/ML training and inference.”

Improving Efficiencies for Data Centers, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

With the partnership powering its research endeavors, IEE expects to make significant headway on two of its grand challenges: achieving multiple orders-of-magnitude improvement in the efficiency of both data center and AI/ML workloads.

In recent years data centers have made significant strides in energy efficiency, but there is still an urgent need for new technologies to offset the continued growth in demand driven by new workloads such as ML, AI, and video. Historically, Moore’s Law correctly predicted the ability to offset increasing computing demands with advances in semiconductor process technology, enabling data centers to scale in a manageable environmental footprint. However, in recent years process technology advancements have slowed as fundamental physical limits are approached. To address this challenge, IEE researchers are pursuing a multi-faceted strategy, targeting efficiency improvements in multiple areas. Computer science professor Tim Sherwood and other faculty are developing new hardware and architecture to not only improve the inherent efficiency of servers and processes, but also reduce power used for cooling. Improvement in algorithmic efficiency is also anticipated to yield significant reductions in the data center power footprint associated with AI and ML applications, and this work is being pursued by researchers such as William Wang. The institute’s world class photonics faculty, which includes Bowers, are focused on unlocking the next wave of efficiency breakthroughs associated with interconnects; the essential technologies which provide high bandwidth connections between the compute nodes as well as to users.

“IEE is a world leader in silicon photonics, which is enabling higher capacity electronics through co-packaging of electronics and photonics. This research is essential to develop the next generation of high-capacity switching chips and becomes even more important for future generations of electronics,” said Bowers, an internationally renowned authority on silicon photonics and optoelectronics.

“A gift of this scale is very rare and definitely transformative,” said Wang, the Mellichamp Chair of Artificial Intelligence and Designs. “Last summer, we collaborated with the Facebook AI Group to build an inference engine for Natural Language Processing that achieved ten times more energy efficiency than the current model. 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.

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News Break


This year, the Institute for Energy Efficiency at UC Santa Barbara held two virtual workshops as part of the 2022 Emerging Technologies Review.

The ETR workshops covered new developments in: Energy Efficiency in Buildings in the Post-COVID-19 Era on January 20th, and Future Data Center Architectures and Increased Energy Efficiency on January 21st. Each virtual workshop featured world class experts and leaders in that arena from industry, academia, and government.

2022 ETR Speakers

Day 1: Energy Efficiency in Buildings in the Post-COVID-19 Era

There are large gains in energy efficiency in buildings that have been achieved by a combination of more efficient equipment and AI-driven automation. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forward the focus on health aspects that the industry is solving in order to provide a safe environment for staff. This workshop focused on the interplay between the two, specifically how the increased needs on the health side and the consequent increase in energy expenditure can be mitigated by further deployment of automation and AI.


Mary Ann Piette, LBNL: Energy Efficiency in Buildings and the Urgency for Grid Integration and Decarbonization
Martin Fischer, Stanford University: Performance by Design
Tim Salsbury, PNNL: Post-Pandemic Opportunities for Building Control and Automation for a Clean Energy Future
Dan Nall, ASHRAE Fellow: Building Operations Decarbonization: 2022
Mead Rusert, Automated Logic Corporation: Comfort, Health, and Energy - Finding the New Balance

Day 2: Future Data Center Architectures and Increased Energy Efficiency

This virtual workshop will focus on architecture, communications and systems issues driving energy efficiency in the cloud and the data center. It will include talks from industry leaders including Katharine Schmidtke, Bharath Muthiah and Rob Stone from Meta Platforms,  Robert Blum from Intel, Robert Ober and Larry Denisson from NVIDIA, Manish Mehta from Broadcom, and talks from UCSB Professors John Bowers, Clint Schow, Yufei Ding, and Lei Li. It will include two panel sessions, one focused on cloud systems and architectural issues and the other on photonic data center communications and interconnects.


Welcome Address and Introduction to the Institute for Energy Efficiency
Katharine Schmidtke, Meta: Problems Faced by Data Centers Today and Future Needs
Bharath Muthiah, Meta: AI Use Cases and Deployments Today, and Problem Statement for Future
Robert Ober, NVIDIA: AI Cluster Trends
Cliff Young, Google: Accelerators are Green; Cloud Accelerators are Greener
Frank Helms, AMD: Trends in Accelerated Computing
Yufei Ding, UCSB: Compiler and Runtime Support for Exploring AI-GPU Acceleration
Surendra Anubolu, Broadcom: Energy Efficient Training Fabric
Lei Li, UCSB: High-Performance Training and Inference on GPUs for NLP Models
Round Table Discussion: AI/ML System and Workload Optimization
Rob Stone, Meta: Optical Interconnects in Data Centers: Drivers and Application Spaces
Ram Huggahalli, Microsoft: Co-Packaged Optics in Future Server Designs
Manish Mehta, Broadcom: Scaling Highly Integrated Optical Interconnects
Thomas Liljeberg, Intel: High Volume Silicon Photonics for Co-Packaged Optics and Optical I/O
Chris Cole, Parallax Group: Data Center Energy Savings in this Decade
Clint Schow, UCSB: Bringing Low-Power O-Band Coherent Optics to the Datacenter
Ravi Agarwal, Meta: Meta Data Centers Heterogenous Integration Driven by AI/ML and Network Applications
John Bowers, UCSB: High Capacity, Energy Efficient Interconnects for Data Centers
Round Table Discussion: Interconnect Optimization