George Zervas awarded £1.1 million EPSRC Fellowship

Dr George Zervas, TRANSNET Co-I from UCL's Optical Networks Group, has been awarded a  fellowship worth £1.1 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to design and build data centres of the future.

From transport to entertainment, we rely on data centres to support almost every aspect of our daily lives, but existing technology is reaching its limit to manage our constant and growing demand for information and data. 

Currently, all data centres are built on electronic networks which have so far been able to keep pace with exponential data growth because of Moore’s Law, the historical tendency of electronic circuits to double their transmission speed every two years or so at no extra power or cost. However, this trend is slowing down as existing technologies to make components smaller and faster are reaching their limits, and the performance of data centre systems is suffering as a consequence.

George’s ‘OptoCloud’ EPSRC Fellowship aims to design and build next generation scalable and sustainable data centres by replacing electronic networks with optical fibre systems. Optical technologies and compute-network-technology co-design have the potential to massively improve network and computational performance, generating data centres that are much more efficient than current technology permits. Optical fibre-based data centres also consume less energy compared to electronic systems, making them more sustainable and cost-effective too.

George Zervas, EPSRC Fellow, said: 

“Data Centres in any form, location and size are the ‘engine rooms’ of the digital infrastructure. Moore’s Law is coming to an end and OptoCloud aims to transform Data Centres by developing scalable, efficient and ultra-fast optical technologies. Crucially, it will explore the co-design of and dependencies between technologies/devices, network, compute and large-scale systems to deliver transformative systems.

This is a multi-disciplinary challenge across physics, engineering and computer science and I’m looking forward to working with my highly talented research team at UCL together with the outstanding group of industrial and academic partners.”

To date, advancements and research has focused on long-standing switching principles. These principals fundamentally suffer from complexities that mean to make magnitudinal improvements will need new approaches to network architecture and the step change that optical integration will bring.

OptoCloud will explore the fundamental challenges of optical data centres, including optical switching, highly efficient interconnects, network topologies, ultra-fast joint design and control of network and compute resources, while evaluating developed  technologies based on industrial use cases. 

The project will begin in March 2021, and over the next few years George will work alongside PhD students, post-doctoral researchers, industry partners and universities, that also contributed £1 million, to achieve the goals of the fellowship.

Congratulations George! 

 This news item was originally posted on ICCS.