Article | Creating Resilience
The Future of Data Center Operations
20 Apr 2021
Smart technology is everywhere, leaving no aspect of our lives behind. From smart homes and phones to smart laptops, televisions, thermostats, cars, wallets and even vacuum cleaners—these Internet of Things (IoT)-powered devices are designed to make everyday tasks easier and faster. Adoption of smart technology is accelerating. According to a recent report by International Data Corporation (IDC), by 2025, the average person will interact with a smart device nearly 4,800 times a day. This projection is roughly triple of where we stand today. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this projection will be realized sooner than later.
The more smart devices there are, the more data will be required to run them. Increasing amounts of data consumption means that data centers will need to keep pace to process, store, connect and analyze it all, which will increase the demand for data centers themselves, as well as the resources to run them.
So how does this impact data center operations?
In every way! Data center operators will require more efficient and cost-effective ways to meet these demands in order to remain viable.
Data center operations of the future ought to view the data center facility as an integrated component of the technology stack, unlocking as much value as possible.
The Case for Converged Operations
One way data center operators can realize cost savings and efficiencies is through converged data center operations.
Converged data center operations refers to the streamlined operation and management of facilities and IT functions through a single operational and financial model. This breaks away from many of the issues and inefficiencies evident in the historic model where these services are managed separately.
- The scope of work for data center facilities services generally includes electrical and mechanical maintenance, building management and control systems as well as energy optimization and capital projects.
- The scope of work for data center IT services may encompass technology hardware installation, migrations and break-fix, smart/remote hands, asset lifecycle management, migrations, white space fit-out, structured cabling and server imaging.
The financial benefits of converging the facilities and IT scopes of work for data center services are vast:
- Full visibility of end-to-end data center operations and costs, yielding a broader understanding of the full breadth of financial needs and options
- Better insights into organizational decision making, impacting both operating and capital budgets
- Ability to convert capital to operating expenses and/or achieve cash deferral, including the ability to move a data center and its technology assets off balance sheet to more closely resemble a cloud financial model
The operations and efficiency benefits of converging the facilities and IT scopes of work for data center services include:
- Full understanding of the resilience of both the data center application and physical layer
- Supplier rationalization with fewer operational handoffs
- Maximum technician cost efficiencies via shared techs between M&E and IT
- Consistency and standardization
Taking advantage of the synergies possible from converging facilities with IT operations will positively impact the bottom line of any data center user or operator. At the most basic level, converging these services can yield significant efficiencies while improving many other aspects such as better capacity planning, including the ability to unlock trapped capacity as well as achieving higher uptime due to a lower level of unplanned disruptions.
Add Technology Adoption
The adoption of technology is another critical measure as operations teams are being asked to do more with less.
Key technologies and areas to watch are:
- Predictive modeling and intelligent analytics
- AL/ML control of data center subsystems and ultimately full BMS control
- Software defined power distribution to minimize trapped capacity
- Robotics – from drone based ‘rounds and readings’ to hardware swap-outs
- SDDC (Software Defined Data Center) – full automation of all data center assets, both FM and IT under a single data center ‘OS’ (Operating System)
The investment required to develop some of these technologies and deploy them broadly to gain the economies of scale will most likely be driven by the largest and most technology advanced portfolio operators.
Human error is still the largest cause of operational disruptions and while much can be done to significantly reduce this impact—such as having a competency-based structured training and certification program for technical staff in various data center disciplines as well as human factors—it is often not cost effective to train and maintain to an appropriate level within smaller businesses.
Technology and automation provide a significant opportunity to make steep changes in terms of how data center operations evolve as we move forward in the next 3-5 years.
The Edge: Accelerating Demand
It is our expectation that Edge data centers will be much smaller (in physical footprint and IT capacity) but there will be many more of them deployed across disperse geographies.
These sites will be un-manned or what some call ‘dark sites’ that can be deployed yet operated remotely. There is already plenty of technology available to remotely monitor and even manage many aspects of data centers today. However, anything that needs to be physically handled requires a distributed mobile workforce until more advanced robotics are employed within at least the larger Edge sites.
With the real scale deployment phase estimated as being 2-3 years away, the unit cost of managing Edge will remain comparatively high compared to the other data center market sub-sectors.
In moving to the converged operations model, organizations should build a thoughtful business case focused on the enterprise objectives of reducing cost structure and increasing efficiencies, while meeting the demands of technology transformation.
Converged operations is a journey, which begins with a great advocate. For more information or help framing your organization’s vision for converged, please do not hesitate to reach out.