NeTS: Medium: Collaborative Research: Flexible All-Wireless Inter-Rack Fabric for Datacenters Using Free-Space Optics

Project: Research project

Project Details


Data centers are a critical piece of the infrastructure supporting our society. They flexibly supply the computing resources that enables the Internet-based economy. The design of a robust data center network fabric is challenging as it must satisfy several goals, viz., high performance, low equipment and management cost, incremental expandability to add new servers, and other practical concerns such as cabling complexity, and power and cooling costs. The project envisions and delivers on a datacenter network design approach that is radically different from prior architectures: a fully flexible, all-wireless fabric using Free-Space Optics (FSO) communication links, which essentially use laser beams to wirelessly transmit data through air. Although outdoor FSO links are challenging to operate under adverse weather conditions, their use in a temperature-controlled datacenter environments offers enormous and untapped potential in information-handling capacity. The proposed network design equips each rack of servers with a number of FSO devices, each of which can be 'steered' in real-time to wirelessly communicate with another FSO device on a different rack. The steering ability enables a dynamic network that adapts to the prevailing network traffic. The project's success will have perceptible economic impact by making IT services more efficient - in terms of capital costs, operating expenses, and carbon footprint - across several critical sectors of the economy. The project will integrate the research with education to help students become domain experts in the datacenter networking industry, and actively encourage participation from under-represented minorities and women.

The project addresses a number of scientific challenges that arise in the context of the above proposed vision. (i) The project will develop cost-effective FSO devices that have a small form-factor and can be steered at fine-grained timescales. (ii) In addition, the project will develop viable mechanisms to facilitate clear line-of-sight for the FSO links, and address practical operational challenges (e.g., dust, vibrations). (iii) The project will explore algorithmic foundations for the design of flexible network topologies; (iv) The project will develop scalable network management solutions including algorithms to optimally select a runtime topology and route traffic; (v) mechanisms to guarantee desired properties (e.g., low congestion and latency) in a dynamically changing topology; (vi) Finally, the project will build a proof-of-concept system prototype and conduct extensive evaluation on appropriate platforms.

Effective start/end date9/1/158/31/19


  • National Science Foundation: $240,000.00


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