SAN FRANCISCO — The US is not funding the basic research needed to avert looming power consumption problems in datacenters, says a senior Cisco engineering manager. Separately, another Cisco exec predicts self-driving cars will someday become the norm.
Today's largest Web giants are planning to build multiple datacenters that could consume as much 120 megawatts each by 2020. Breakthroughs in technologies such as silicon photonics could help reduce the need for such facilities, says Dave Ward, chief technologist of engineering at Cisco Systems
"As a society we are not investing to get to the root of major power problems," Ward said, speaking at a press event where Cisco technologists gave their predictions for the future.
Today the largest datacenters for Web giants such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google each draw 40 to 50MW. All the largest players have plans on the drawing board for facilities two to three times that size, he said.
"That's as much energy as it takes to power a city of 500,000 people -- just to handle our data," Ward said. Finding ways to build more power efficient datacenters "will be one of the most important questions for getting to 2020."
Cisco CTO Dave Ward spoke at a recent press gathering.
Silicon photonics is seen as one approach for lowering power consumption in datacenters. Cisco, Intel, Mellanox, and others are developing silicon photonics products, but they are not expected until 2014 or later. Today's datacenters are starting to adopt 10 Gbit/s Ethernet with moves to 40GE planned through 2018, Ward said.
The power problem also exists within chips. "We may break through to where we are leaking more power than we use."
Among other predictions at the event, Ward said traditional switched telephony equipment may become obsolete by 2020, as Ethernet-based systems become the norm.
Guido Jouret, general manager of Cisco's new Internet of Things group, made two predictions about tomorrow's cars.
By 2018, the average new car will be connected to the Internet and generate a terabyte of data a day for a car by 2018. "Companies that think they have a lot of data today ain't seen nothing yet," said Jouret.
He also asserted that today's self-driving cars are about as safe as human-driven ones. He extrapolated on that fact to make a prediction about how insurance companies will respond to the emerging technology.
"I predict in maybe five to seven years most of us will have to pay more to drive our cars than to let cars drive themselves, and the total number of cars will decline because we will share cars," he said.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times