The digital world's cornerstone is data centers. Cloud computing, IoT, 5G, Big Data, and AI would all have limited growth potential without them. As the volume of data produced grows exponentially, so does the need for data center technology innovation.
The global pandemic increased the importance of data center operators becoming less reliant on human intervention for everyday operations. Now, more than ever, organizations are investing in automation and robotics in the data center so that employees can bring more value elsewhere to the business and have more time to interact with clients and strengthen relationships.
Top Data Center Automation Trends to Watch in 2021
Data centers have long been highly automated environments. The digital transformation has led to the proliferation of environmental sensors in racks and servers which allow organizations to track many critical aspects of their infrastructure utilizing software. This philosophy has expanded beyond typical infrastructure management to include automation solutions that integrate artificial intelligence.
Data center automation allows for the routine day to day activities of a facility to be completely managed and executed without humans. These tasks include scheduling, monitoring, general maintenance, and application delivery. These solutions allow for the data center management team to focus more of their attention and time on mission critical tasks.
Robotics as Collaborative Tools
According to a recent AFCOM study, 40% of data center providers that were surveyed stated that they would be deploying robotics or automation software in their facilities within the next 3 years. It’s no secret that these technologies lead to more efficient and profitable facilities, which should be the goal of any data center operator looking for sustained success.
There’s been countless articles and books written about how robots will one day replace humans but one of the biggest automation trends of the last few years has proven quite the opposite. Robotics solutions within data centers have allowed robots and humans to work together to enhance each other’s role and help businesses find new ways to serve their clients more efficiently.
Take cloud migration as an example. Migrating to the cloud is hard. It’s a time-consuming job that creates many sleepless nights for the IT departments of enterprise businesses. The complexities and personalization involved ensures that businesses will always require the insight of a human in order to get it just right. However, there is a lot of work that goes into cloud migration that doesn’t require the flexible thinking of a human IT professional and that is exactly the kind of work that would be perfect for a robot.
This kind of automation already exists at some level in IT departments today but moving forward automation solutions that ease the programing load for IT departments will be an area that will see significant growth over the next few years.
AI is one of the primary tools in facility automation as it holds a great deal of promise for automating infrastructure so that it requires less human touch to remain functional. The end game is creating an environment where data center workers are deeply integrated with technology automation, each making the others job easier, as opposed to the technology replacing the worker.
Google has utilized AI to assist with managing the cooling systems in their data centers, allowing for real time updates on changes in weather or workloads so that the system can allocate resources to particular areas of the facility as needed. AI is also commonly used to monitor emergency backup generators by examining the machinery at a microscopic level with sound and video, sending alerts to human staff when a defect or change in functioning is detected.
Automating Hyperscale Data Centers
The demand for creating and leasing data center space has increased dramatically during the last five years. Hyperscale platforms like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Facebook, and other digitally driven behemoths have leased masses of capacity at an incredible rate worldwide. The majority of this hypergrowth occurred in established data center markets like Northern Virginia, Amsterdam, and Singapore. These markets will continue to serve as meccas for colocation services in the years to come.
A hyperscale data center is a facility that makes it easier for online platforms to store and move massive amounts of data. Moreover, they are required to sustain the global web, social media, streaming media, AI/ML, cloud gaming, and cloud providers' scalable infrastructures. Hyperscale and automation seem to go hand in hand. As more hyper scale data centers appear, the need to automate the processes within them will grow as well. Taking data from across the data center and applying analytics and machine learning to that data to identify and inefficiencies or irregularities will be key.
The data center industry will continue to expand rapidly, resulting in increased demand for hyperscale data centers in strategic locations worldwide. Thus, custom development, leasing space from specialists, and contracting with global colocation providers will be used to complete the build-out.
Innovative Cooling Technologies
To keep physical buildings at an appropriate temperature, cooling equipment, and related technologies, are essential in keeping vital IT equipment from overheating.
There is no shortage of innovation in data center cooling technologies, and the field is always evolving. One alternative to reduce electricity consumption is using seawater or rainwater. Cutting edge software defined AI can also be used to assess power usage and temperature settings in real-time and make adjustments accordingly. In some data centers, cooling robots that monitor temperature and humidity are also being utilized to increase efficiency.
Demand for Data Center Talent
Data Center administrators, generally speaking, have a core skill set and were hired for a specialized purpose. As new innovations flood the market, it will be essential to have employees that are well versed in the maintenance and programming of those technologies. To maximize data center professionals' capabilities, organizations must make a point to provide the required tools and training. A skills matrix can help management effectively communicate talent gaps.
Attracting topflight talent is difficult. It’s essential that businesses devote time to participating in proactive internal and external recruitment efforts. An often-overlooked step is to form collaborations with business groups, colleges, and commercial and public sector training institutions. In the coming years, providers will have to change how they recruit and retain talent if they want to remain ahead of the curve in a data center market that’s poised to explode as the digital transformation continues.
These initiatives will assure a long-term stream of competent and enthusiastic individuals for data center positions. Automating the data center is a good way to take make facilities more efficient but the full benefits will never be fully realized without a team of innovative professionals to help steer the ship. Even as technology advances, an organization will only ever be as good as the employees that are on the front lines.