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Researchers test wireless networks for server communication

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Researchers are looking into ways to alleviate overloaded servers with high-frequency wireless networks that kick in when traffic is high.

Microsoft Server Farm
Microsoft Server Farm

When data centers are overloaded during peak times, the usual response is to rewire them for more connectivity. Some researchers, however, are looking into another possibility — adding wireless networks that can handle excess traffic. A project by Microsoft and the University of Washington tested wireless networks on servers, simulating traffic loads based on four real-life data centers and achieving what they say is a substantial improvement of performance.

The system uses a wireless network on the 60GHz band, which allows for a very fast directional network over short distances. Tiny antennas on top of the server racks direct the signal, which is turned on by a central controller when more bandwidth is needed. This kind of setup — which requires the antenna direction to be finely tuned and needs a clear line of sight to work — wouldn't be feasible for a normal access point, but the researchers say it's well-suited to a server room, where everything is already carefully controlled. There's more information at the source link below, and a complete paper on the project (PDF) was published last year at SIGCOMM, a data communication conference.