Amid growing concerns surrounding the potential environmental impacts of massive data centres, Duncan Moss, has been invited to undertake a yearlong research internship with multinational technology company, Intel.
Duncan, a PhD candidate in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering will be based at Intel’s Data Center Cloud Platform Group in Hillsboro, USA.
“Data centres are avid consumers of power and if allowed to continue to expand in their current form could become a major consumer of the world’s energy supply,” says Duncan, who will join Intel’s world-leading team investigating better methods for using new chips to be released in 2017 which combine CPUs (Central Processing Unit) and FPGAs (field-programmable gate array).
“FPGAs are specialty chips used to speed up certain kinds of computer workloads such as machine learning,” explains Duncan.
“The FPGA chip has also been around for a while but is difficult to work with, however Intel’s new technology will make it mainstream.
“It’s like being given two buckets of Lego blocks. The CPU bucket only has one type of Lego block so it can only be made into one thing, but the FPGA bucket has all kinds of blocks – small, large, rectangle or square – an assortment that can be changed into any desired configuration.
“We can change the FPGA part to suit our needs but the CPU can’t be altered. Also FPGAs are far more energy efficient than CPUs on a performance-per-watt basis.”
Duncan, who was fourteen when he built his first computer from off-the-shelve components, says: “This is an amazing opportunity for me. The particular FPGA algorithm that I will be able to develop will allow data centres to run with less power but just as efficiently.”
Professor Philip Leong, Duncan’s Ph.D. supervisor says: “Greenpeace noted that if the Cloud were a country, it would have the fifth largest electricity demand in the world. Duncan’s work is extremely timely as it will utilise Intel’s technology to dramatically improve the speed and power consumption of these data centres.”
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