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Let there be Light: The Future of Cloud Computing

6 minute read

Published:

This was a conversation piece co-authored by myself and my colleague Zacharaya Shabka in an attempt to outline the motivation behind making data centres all-optical for a broad audience.

projects

3D Holographic AR and VR Displays

Published:

Modern augmented and virtual reality systems such as Oculus VR, Magic Leap and HoloLens products are fundamentally unfit for purpose because they use 2D projection which leads to eye fatigue and a lack of immersive experience for the user. Holography is the only way to produce truly 3D images, and could therefore emerge as the leading technology for such display systems. Historically to have large field-of-view holographic displays, engineers had to use either smaller spatial light modulators or telescope de-magnification techniques. This resulted in uncomfortably small and often impractical display sizes. In collaboration with the University of Cambridge and holographic display company VividQ, this project saw the development of a system capable of expanding the eyebox without compromising on display size, signficantly improving the usability and quality of 3D holographic displays.

Huawei DriveML Challenge

Published:

Autonomous driving holds the promise of reducing traffic accidents by designing safe, robust, accurate and intelligent agents. In this introductory-level competition, Huawei open-accessed their traffic perception simulation system with which competitors had 6 weeks to design, train and test a single-agent navigating roads and traffic. My team attempted to use the NeuroEvolution of Augmenting Topologies (NEAT) genetic algorithm for the agent policy trained with a reinforcement learning framework, however performance was ultimately not good due to poor generalisation to unseen scenarios.

Network Attack Detection

Published:

Software to detect network intrusions protects a computer network from unauthorised users, including perhaps insiders. The KDD dataset from the 1999 DARPA Intrusion Detection Evaluation Program competition contains roughly 5 million network connection request fingerprints split into 4 broad categories (DoS, R2L, U2R and probing attacks) which can be further sub-divided into 23 forms of attack. Using a standard sequential neural network with 3 hidden layers, a model was trained with a supervised learning framework in a client-server architecture to detect malicious network requests with 99.99% accuracy.

Smart Ski Boot

Published:

Using embedded systems hardware can be more complex to programme, but can bring benefits in terms of costs and power consumption. This project saw the development of a prototype ‘smart ski boot’ that could be used for more accurate, in-depth and cheap ski technique instruction than is deliverable by expensive human instructors, who typically charge £500-700 a day. This stands to benefit not only skiers who will save money in tuition fees and receive superior teaching, but also the ski industry, from restauranteurs to equipment providers, whose customer base will increase as fewer people are priced out of the sport.

Scheduling with Graph Neural Networks (Ongoing)

Published:

(GitHub) Two broad communities concern themselves with scheduling; computer science and networking. Often the computer science approach involves only the consideration of the job computation graph that each flow being scheduled is part of, whereas the properties and states of the network in which the flow is being scheduled are ignored. This leads to unrealistic assumptions of 0 latency for links, switches, etc., and can incur large buffering penalties due to congestion queueing. By contrast, the networking approach often only considers the network, ignoring the job computation graph that each flow is part of and only focusing on minmising e.g. flow completion time, rather than optimising the scheduler’s performance with respect to the overall job graph. This project is introducing a new approach which considers both the job graph and the network when scheduling flows. By framing this as a combinatorial optimisation problem whereby an agent must choose an optimal sub-set of queued flows in a network graph to be scheduled for the next timeslot, a graph neural network can be trained to schedule flows in an end-to-end reinforcement learning environment. Hopefully this will demonstrate both good performance and the ability to be scaled to large networks.

Ultra-Fast Optical Switch Optimisation

Published:

(Paper) (GitHub) (Documentation) One of the primary bottlenecks to all-optical data centre networks is the lack of a packet-timescale switch. This project saw the application of AI techniques to switch semiconductor optical amplifiers in just half a nanosecond. AI beat the previous world-record by an order of magnitude and, for the first time, offered the potential to be scaled to thousands of switches in a real data centre.

Network Traffic Generation Tool

Published:

(GitHub) (Documentation) Data related to communication networks is often sensitve and proprietary. Consequently, many networking academic papers are published without open-accessing the network traffic data that was used to obtain the results, and when they are published the datasets are often too limited for data-hungry applications such as reinforcement learning. In an effort to aid reproducibility, some authors release characteristic distributions which broadly describe the underlying data. However, these distributions are often not analytically described and may not fall under the classic ‘named’ distributions (Gaussian, log-normal, Pareto etc.). As a result, other researchers find themselves using unrealistically simple uniform traffic distributions or their own distributions which are difficult to universally benchmark. This project saw the development of an open-access network traffic generation tool for (1) standardising the traffic patterns used to benchmark networking systems, and (2) enabling rapid and easy replication of literature distributions even in the absence of raw open-access data.

publications

Scalable Ultra-Wideband Sub-Nanosecond Wavelength Switching for Data Centre Networks

Published in Currently Under Peer Review, 2020

Abstract: Optical switching promises low power and latency networking for data centres, but requires a wideband, ultra-fast wavelength-tuneable source (WTS) at every node. We propose a hybrid WTS that uses two time-interleaved tuneable lasers, each gated by a semiconductor optical amplifier, where the performance of each device is optimised using artificial intelligence algorithms. We experimentally demonstrate a switching bandwidth of 6.05 THz (122×50 GHz) with stable switch times of 547 ps. The hybrid WTS scales well with respect to on-chip area and power consumption, and therefore constitutes the first demonstration of truly scalable ultra-fast optical switching.

Recommended citation: T. Gerard, C. W. F. Parsonson, Z. Shabka, P. Bayvel, D. Lavery and G. Zervas, "Scalable Ultra-Wideband Sub-Nanosecond Wavelength Switching for Data Centre Networks," Currently Under Peer Review, May 2020

Optimal Control of SOAs with Artifical Intelligence for Sub-Nanosecond Optical Switching

Published in IEEE/OSA Journal of Lightwave Technology (JLT), 2020

Abstract: Novel approaches to switching ultra-fast semiconductor optical amplifiers using artificial intelligence algorithms (particle swarm optimisation, ant colony optimisation, and a genetic algorithm) are developed and applied both in simulation and experiment. Effective off-on switching (settling) times of 542 ps are demonstrated with just 4.8% overshoot, achieving an order of magnitude improvement over previous attempts described in the literature and standard dampening techniques from control theory.

Recommended citation: C. W. F. Parsonson, Z. Shabka, W. K. Chlupka, B. Goh and G. Zervas, "Optimal Control of SOAs with Artificial Intelligence for Sub-Nanosecond Optical Switching," IEEE/OSA Journal of Lightwave Technology (JLT), June 2020 https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/9124678

talks

teaching

Teaching experience 1

Undergraduate course, University 1, Department, 2014

This is a description of a teaching experience. You can use markdown like any other post.

Teaching experience 2

Workshop, University 1, Department, 2015

This is a description of a teaching experience. You can use markdown like any other post.