On September 2, 2015, the University of Delaware announced that Professor Haining Wang had received a three-year, $2 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to investigate energy and power safety in data centers.  The grant may signal increased focus from DHS on enhancing the resilience and security of internet infrastructure, as this area has become an area for potential cyber-attacks. 

Data centers are increasingly relied upon for critical business operations as companies shift to cloud-based solutions.  Due to the power requirements demanded by data center cooling systems, Professor Wang has noted that power and thermal management has become a critical priority.  Overloading of electrical circuits due to poor power management in data centers can lead to systems outages, while poor thermal management can cause overheating, resulting in data center hardware systems shutting down for self-protection.  Data centers with insufficient power or thermal management can be vulnerable to attack if users can cause servers to generate dangerous levels of heat or consume unanticipated amounts of power.  “Current power management and security mechanisms provide virtually no defense against these novel and dangerous attacks,” Professor Wang noted in the University of Delaware press release.

Professor Wang’s research, to be conducted in partnership with the Ohio State University and IBM Research, will focus on developing techniques to defend against power- and thermal-based attacks on data centers.  The techniques will utilize online power estimation and measurement for incoming server requests, server temperature modeling and prediction, and power and thermal balancing to detect attacks and mitigate damage.