Bouncing Wi-Fi off ceilings could boost data center speeds by 30%

Computers are fast. What isn't as fast is miles and miles of wiring, and when you've got a huge data center with hundred or thousands of computers all trying to talk to each other, it's usually the connections between them that's the slowest part of the system. Solution? Go wireless, and bounce it off the ceiling instead.

Why are ceiling bounces necessary in a datacenter when we can just blast Wi-Fi straight through walls at home? It's all about bandwidth: for wireless data to be useful in a data center environment, it needs to be one wicked fat pipe. We're talking 60-gigahertz Wi-Fi, which can transmit data in the range of gigabits per second. But, the only way to keep it reliable is to focus the signal into extremely narrow, line of sight beams that don't interfere with each other, which is almost impossible in a data center stuffed full of server racks.

Almost impossible. Most data centers have one remaining uncluttered space, and that's up by the ceiling. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Intel's labs in Oregon have been trying out ceiling-mounted reflecting plates that can bounce gigahertz Wi-Fi signals from one side of a data center to another, and they've seen a 30% increase in data transmission speeds, which works out to an extra 500 gigs per second or so.

The other advantage of using wireless, as anyone who's ever tried to set up a home network can tell you, is that it's much, much easier to add components or move stuff around if you don't have to worry about connecting everything with wires. So eventually, relying on Wi-Fi will mean that data centers will spend less time and money futzing around with a bajillion ethernet cables, and more time and money fixing all of the world's problems. How's that all going, by the way?

Via Tech Review

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook