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Revolutionising Data Centres: Babak Falsafi’s Quest for Efficiency and Sustainability

Wed 15 May 2024

Ahead of the Data Centre World event at Messe Frankfurt on 22-23 May, we had the pleasure of conversing with Babak Falsafi, President of the Swiss Data Centre Efficiency Association and Professor of Computer Science at EPFL.

Falsafi’s pioneering work revolves around reshaping data centres to be more efficient and sustainable, addressing the pressing challenges of power consumption and environmental impact.

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Falsafi’s Journey into Technological Advancements

Falsafi’s journey into the realm of technology began with a profound interest in computer science and electrical engineering. As a professor, his focus on designing hardware for servers led him to explore ways to optimise computing resources amidst the limitations of silicon density.

This exploration culminated in the creation of a platform and label by the Swiss Data Centre Efficiency Association, aimed at quantifying the efficiency and emissions of data centres.

Falsafi explained the silicon technologies that formed the foundation of digital computing have been getting denser for 50 years, according to what is known as Moore’s Law.

“This exponential improvement has now come to slow down, eventually will stop because all exponentials eventually stop for physics reasons, and we are reaching the physical limits of silicon density,” noted Falsafi.

The Birth of a Data Efficiency Platform

The platform developed by the Swiss Data Centre Efficiency Association provided a standardised method for measuring and reporting data centre efficiency. Falsafi hopes this platform will empower providers and users to make informed decisions regarding energy consumption and environmental impact.

Through meticulous assessment of energy flow, IT efficiency, and emissions, the platform offers a comprehensive solution to the sustainability challenges faced by data centres.

“We have created a platform where customers can come in and get an index out of it … We have three calculators that we have launched,” said Falsafi.

Navigating the Future of Technology

Falsafi’s vision extends beyond the present challenges, exploring the future of computing and emerging technologies. With the exponential growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and the increasing power consumption of chips, he emphasised the importance of finding innovative solutions to manage energy consumption effectively.

“You will see an exponential increase in power consumption of the AI chips that are coming out every generation and also not as steep on an exponential, but a phenomenal increase in power consumption in CPUs, which is the foundational chip for all of computing data centres,” said Falsafi.

These trends mean that racks of servers will have to house much more power consumption, and the solution to use this electricity sustainably will also need to be found.

Empowering Future Generations

As a seasoned professional in the field, Falsafi encourages aspiring researchers and young professionals to explore the diverse facets of technology, from AI and chip design to sustainability and renewable energy.

“The future is bright for young curious minds to get into this. By the same token, we also need to invest in AI technologies to retrain people because AI is also going to get rid of a lot of jobs,” remarked Falsafi.

At the upcoming Data Centre World event in Frankfurt, Falsafi plans to introduce the platform developed by the Swiss Data Centre Efficiency Association. He aims to educate attendees about the significance of measuring and optimising data centre efficiency, highlighting the calculators designed to assess energy flow, IT efficiency, and emissions.

“I’m going to introduce our platform to the users and make the case for what is going on with the future of chips. We have three calculators that we have launched, which are available whether you want to get certified or not,” shared Falsafi.

 

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