With the quest for ever greater performance and energy efficiency to meet the growing streaming video and exploding bandwidth mobile device market and the expected surge in bandwidth demand for the upcoming release of the 5G wireless mobile device market, wireless carriers have finally been working together to develop the CPUs needed to deliver the expanded services and mobile devices.

As a result, their joint efforts have spurred and accelerated the development of nano-scale processors, which are based on carbon nanotubes instead of silicon. A spokesperson for the 5G consortium announced that production versions of nano-scale processors would be ready and available by later this year, just in time for the Holiday Season sales of the latest 5G smartphones.

Besides vastly increasing battery life in smartphones, the huge increase in energy efficiency and nano-scale also allows hundreds or potentially thousands of cores to be put on a multi-level substrate in a single chip. This represents the breakthrough in CPU technology that the computing industry has been waiting for. This disruptive development is the new paradigm for next generation processors meant to try to break the X86 dynasty. The code name “Slingshot” was chosen in reference to David and Goliath, wherein David used a slingshot to fell the mighty giant Goliath. These nano-scale, SlingShot processors use far less power (each nano-core is measured in microwatts while at idle, and uses only milliwatts in active mode). This far exceeds the energy efficiency of the current crop of low power ARM and ATOM processors.

These first generation nanotube chips only draw 5 to 10 watts (with 512 cores), therefore overcoming the thermal limitations of existing silicon-based processors used in today’s data centers. Moreover, the carbon nanotubes (when doped with yttrium, a rare earth element), can also act as a thermoelectric generator. This allows the chip to internally turn the heat produced into power, to partially offset the energy used by the processing layers of the chip by 30-40%. This in turn, reduces the data center cooling requirements as well, allowing even more “free cooling” in more locations. The carbon nanotubes will also be able to function as non-volatile memory, delivering extremely fast, low power mass storage.

Of course, this will also radically change the size, power requirements and overall architecture for future data centers. The traditional data center is already in transition from the move to open source hardware and the architecture shift toward Software Defined Data CentersSDDC”, as it morphs into a metaphysical conceptual state, as well as from the rush to meet the demand for cloud computing. The internal architecture of SlingShot is natively designed to be a keystone component for SDDC applications. A micro-kernel internal operating system has also been developed, called pebble. This is fully compliant with the SDDC concept, allowing the CPU and micro-kernel OS to deliver universal functionality in servers, switches and storage.

The multi-level substrate technology also allows the top layer to have nanotubes (doped with scandium), to have photovoltaic properties which allow them to use solar power to further reduce their energy requirements. And while the photovoltaic layer only produces enough energy to reduce the chip power by 50% while in direct sunlight on earth, if deployed in space where the direct sunlight is far stronger, it would be completely self-powered.

The code name “Slingshot” was also chosen for another reason. The second reason was even more interesting, as the deployment strategy involves the use of a high tech “slingshot” system, to be used to launch a micro-satellite into low earth orbit. This slingshot type launcher is a variant of a magnetic rail gun system, which was under consideration by NASA as a spacecraft launching system. For project SlingShot, a small scale version was built, using off-the-shelf ultra-capacitors, which discharges into a 15 foot super-conducting linear accelerator coil. Thus it becomes capable of magnetically accelerating small objects to very high velocities, allowing the system to launch micro-satellites into orbit in only a few seconds. This eliminates the need and complexity for rocket based launching of micro-satellite payloads, making the system feasible and cost effective.

A prototype Micro-Satellite Software Defined Data Center “MS-SDDC” has been developed, weighing only 4.4 lbs (approximately 2 kilograms), allowing it to be launch via the magnetic rail gun. The first MS-SDDC is similar in form to a large Rubik’s Cube, with the top surfaces of the SlingShot processors forming the exterior surfaces to allow them to constantly face the sun, regardless of angular position. This first prototype micro-data center satellite is scheduled to be launched on April 1st, just as the sun crosses the meridian (GMT+/- 24:00).

The Bottom Line

Finally the use of modern technology will no longer be a drain on our ecosystem. Just as the world was forever changed by the Internet, the full implications of this SlingShot breakthrough are nearly as unfathomable. Our Smartphones and other yet unforeseen devices will become ever more powerful, along with data centers. If you are interested in help to piloting this groundbreaking technology, a limited number of “SlingShot” developer kits are available (launching mechanism not included). Please contact me for details.

However, in the interim please look at your calendar, as this blog is posted on April Fool’s Day. So while I hope you were entertained by my musing (perhaps induced by heat stroke here in the Hot Aisle, while watching too many YouTube videos), some of what I am “imagineering” is not too far from reality.

In any event, please remember that improving energy efficiency for both the facility infrastructure and IT equipment is an important and ongoing effort. Hopefully, we will ultimately be able to develop ever more energy efficient processors, as well as viable heat harvesting and other technologies that will make energy recovery and reuse feasible.

Please check your rear view mirrors, which are clearly marked “The future may appear closer than it seems” and adjust your seatbelt and mindset accordingly.