By Carol Koech
As digitization and technological advances bring us hurtling towards a new, more integrated future, not all data center owners will be equally equipped to handle the new levels of operational agility required. However, if risks and shortcomings within existing data center systems and related management strategies are recognized early enough, stakeholders will improve their chances to engineer a smooth transition to the more dynamic future.
According to intelligence and advisory firm Arizton, the global data center market will reach $174 billion by 2023. As disruptive IoT technologies create a spike in demand for data centers and as data continues to become more valuable, more sustainable, efficient, adaptive, and resilient data center infrastructures will be needed if owners are to cash in on this growth opportunity.
Users will be looking for data center owners to implement more diverse approaches to enable their cloud and edge migrations will look to data centers to help them build stronger partner ecosystems and will expect more support in their efforts to incorporate as-a-service offerings for their customers.
Build your data center future around these four pillars
To accommodate these rising marketplace demands, data center owners will be required to step up performance in these four important areas:
- Sustainability– The data center of the future will be expected to both integrate into and accommodate a company’s complete upstream and downstream supply chain sustainability data. Above and beyond just tracking company-based emissions, the notion of Scope three emissions (or supply chain-based emissions) will need to be monitored, captured, analyzed, benchmarked, and published.
Datacenter operators can begin to manage Scope three emissions today by first engaging and evaluating suppliers and partners who have already succeeded in reigning in their Scope one and two emissions (direct emissions from sources the organization owns or has control over, and indirect emissions from generating the electricity, heating, and cooling they buy). In fact, when selecting data center solution vendors, adherence to sustainable emissions control should factor in as an important evaluation criterion, on par with price and product quality. Working with established, environmentally aware data center infrastructure companies like Schneider Electric, can help to jumpstart such efforts. Eco-friendly initiatives, such as Schneider Electric’s Green Premium program (focused on structured sustainable resource, reuse, and well-being KPIs) can serve as useful examples for guiding data center owners in their quest to further formalize sustainability efforts.
- Efficiency – Data center efficiencies, which often encompass only process and hardware performance efficiencies, will soon have to include human resources, Capex, and TCO efficiencies. By instrumenting devices with intelligent sensors, and by adding more digital services and remote monitoring capabilities, data centers will be able to drive more efficient human resources workflows (faster alerting, more precise predictive diagnostics) which will result in far fewer instances of unanticipated downtime.
The accelerated use of reference designs will also reduce or eliminate much of the time engineers spend on data center upgrade design phases. The designs will be precise, and the necessary quantities of required building materials will become more predictable than when new designs are created from scratch. This limits material waste when new builds are commissioned. In addition, long-lasting, power-efficient, and space-saving technologies such as Lithium-ion batteries can be used during the deployment phases, lowering capex and total cost of ownership (TCO) while shielding data center servers from unanticipated blackouts and brownouts.
- Flexibility – As businesses across the globe scramble to increase flexibility while navigating unorthodox working conditions and unpredictable supply chains, a new mentality for remaining in business has emerged: accelerate your ability to deliver goods and services with Amazon-like speed and precision. As customers adapt to these new marketplace realities, so must their data center facilities. Much more flexible data center designs will emerge that allow data center owners to pivot and quickly scale up or down as needed to handle the uncertain future.
Bringing high-data volume workloads closer to the users through edge data centers is one example of how computing power can diversify across regions to address fluctuating market requirements. The need for speed and accuracy in these more remote environments will also require solutions that save space and offer ease of remote programming and monitoring. Accommodating these more aggressive marketplace time-to-delivery challenges will also require pre-built data center compute, power, and cooling capacity in the form of containerized, modular pop-up data centers. These scalable blocks of data center infrastructure assets will arrive ready to operate and will be quick to deploy either indoors or out of doors.
- Resilience – By bringing in processes, programs, tools, and resources that both enable minimum exposure to hazards and associated risks (like unanticipated blackouts) and rapid reaction and recovery from unplanned events, data center owners will be in a much stronger position to control their destinies during times of crisis and uncertainty. Even today, powerful AI-based monitoring tools offer new ways to remotely manage at-risk data center assets. Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxureTM IT, for example, automatically collects critical infrastructure sensor values on a regular basis and submits that data to a centralized data lake in the cloud. That data is then pooled with other data collected from thousands of other Schneider Electric customer sites.
Once in the data lake, asset behavior, across many brands of equipment, and across multiple sites is compared. All actions taken in response to alarms are tracked using data pertaining to equipment behavior before and after an incident. This output provides a clear record of actions and their consequences, positive and negative. Such data pool correlation provides a deeper understanding of root causes of problems and can generate predictive reports that advise operators regarding which actions to take before a particular problem results in unanticipated downtime. AI algorithms identify the critical patterns of equipment behavior and output reports are generated for stakeholders, greatly increasing the resilience of the data center.
Benefit from an updated cybersecurity envelope
A built-in safety net of advanced cybersecurity will be required across each of these four data center-of-the-future pillars. New cybersecurity frameworks will evolve that will enable migration to a more holistic security environment and that will account for both new technologies coming in and for legacy technologies that require a strengthening of their cybersecurity levels.
Schneider Electric has taken lessons learned from its own digital journey to develop a Cybersecurity by Design strategy and technology development framework, which serves as a foundation for helping data centers modernize their cybersecurity strategies.
By executing the twofold goal of producing cyber-secure products and of offering cybersecurity services that are applicable to data centers, Schneider Electric has established itself as a cybersecurity leader in the realm of data center power and cooling infrastructure. The goal is to assure that future data centers remain constantly available, and that ongoing collaborative cybersecurity development efforts will result in even stronger attack detection, better process, and forensic analysis, and more robust cyberattack response solutions.
The writer is the Country President, Schneider Electric East Africa.