Data Center

Funding Alert: $3M for The Next Generation of Sustainable Digital Infrastructure

TL;DR: Up to $3M is available for 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education researching ways to dramatically improve environmental sustainability of the world’s digital infrastructure.


Closing date: November 4, 2020
Expected number of awards: Multiple
Award amount: $3,000,000
How to apply: Start here

What is the National Science Foundation?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future. This type of support:

  • Is a primary driver of the U.S. economy.
  • Enhances the nation’s security.
  • Advances knowledge to sustain global leadership.

With an annual budget of $8.3 billion (FY 2020), it is the funding source for approximately 25 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

Why Sustainable Digital Infrastructure?

The goal of this joint solicitation between NSF and VMware is to foster novel, transformative research in fundamental and systematic approaches that bring dramatic increases in the environmental sustainability of the Digital Infrastructure leading to practical methodologies and tools. The Digital Infrastructure is broadly defined as the totality of software, hardware, and the methods for managing them for the purpose of efficient computation.

A new generation of innovation would build on many recent advances such as passive and active measurements, statistical analysis and inference, learning for automated control and complex optimization, workload isolation and management, agile development, convergence of development and production environments, and architecture-optimized language translation.

In recent years, along with the rapid expansion of data centers and cloud computing, there has been an increased interest in making this expansion environmentally sustainable. According to a recent report, compute workload has grown six-fold between 2010 and 2018 with tremendous consumer and societal benefits. While some cloud-based applications increased overall sustainability (such as reduced emissions from cloud-enabled telecommuting, including VMware’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, VDI), there has been a high interest and effort in increasing the sustainability of data center operations.

How does this funding work?

Proposals may only be submitted by Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) — Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.

The next generation of innovation in sustainability of Digital Infrastructure will consider the full range of research areas, including 1) metrics, benchmarks and measurement methods to capture the wide variety of applications; 2) infrastructure architectures and approaches to incorporate sustainability concerns across the full Development and Operations (DevOps) lifecycle; and 3) methods to manage the aggregate Digital Infrastructure environment and workloads. NSF and VMware will support multiple projects with funding of up to $3,000,000 each over three years, and it is intended that NSF and VMware will co-fund each project.

This NSF/VMware partnership combines CISE’s experience in developing and managing successful large, diverse research portfolios with VMware’s significant expertise in management of virtualized workloads, virtualization technology, distributed systems, cloud computing, and other aspects of large-scale software infrastructure and infrastructure management.

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