This sponsored thought leadership article was authored by Brent Bensten, Chief Technology Officer for QTS Data Centers
As digital transformation accelerates across industries and a new digital economy takes shape globally, demand for digital infrastructure and data center capacity – along with related costs and complexity – are increasing rapidly.
In response, forward thinking data centers are investing millions in digitization, automation and efficiency technologies. The term “smart data center” describes data centers deploying new tools and technologies enabling them and their enterprise customers’ to gain digital control of their environments as they continue on their digital transformation journeys focused on ROI and the ability to scale.
Advent of the Smart Data Center
For data centers to get “smart” they must start by digitizing data from their existing infrastructures that can encompass thousands of sensors and physical devices already in place. This digitization creates access to massive amounts of data (telemetry) that enable new levels of transparency and orchestration across a data center. Data center orchestration is a process-driven workflow that helps make data centers and the data center customers’ infrastructure more efficient. Repetitive, slow and error prone manual tasks are replaced by the automation of tasks and the orchestration of processes.
Telemetry and orchestration are fueling new tools leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and predictive technologies that draw inference from data being collected and digitized in real time. It is enabling API-driven orchestration bringing multiple diverse feeds together in a new ways that are extremely meaningful to the data center and their customers.
Smart and Connected Data Center
Tying it all together are evolving ecosystems of interconnection and connectivity delivering access to data and telemetry that are increasing the ability of enterprise data center customers’ ability to make decisions in real time. Decisions enabled by real time analytics and trending, oversight and control of infrastructure, improved logical and physical security, and self-provisioning in minutes and in some cases seconds.
Think of this new level of digitized data, telemetry and orchestration as increasing a data center’s “intelligence” and is effectively the “brain” of the smart and connected data center. The more access to data, telemetry and orchestration equates to how “smart” the data center is and how effective it is for large enterprise customers making business decisions impacting the performance and efficiency of their IT infrastructure. The best data center providers are creating transparency and ease of access to data to create new “smart” tools leveraging advanced technologies. For data center customers, these new tools are translating directly to return on investment and the ability to easily scale their IT infrastructure up (or down) as needed.
In fact, Gartner forecasts that by 2025, data centers employing advanced AI and ML capabilities will achieve an astonishing 30% higher operating efficiency
On-Prem and Hybrid Data Centers Trying to Keep Up
At the same time, enterprise, hyperscale and government organizations have begun their own internal digital transformation journeys. The challenges for the on-prem and hybrid data center environments for even the largest organizations are increasing. Applications are now composed of individual microservices running on hundreds of servers and thousands of switches. As they digitize, deploy more equipment and engage a growing portfolio of network and cloud options, effectively managing these internal environments has become much more complex.
As complexity and the need to scale increases, the potential for major negative impact on network performance is increasing. For example, in a cloud data center, hundreds of thousands of applications can be impacted by a single network problem. In fact, a recent Uptime Institute study found that networking and configuration issues are the leading cause of service degradations in data centers.
The key to identifying and pre-emptively solving these challenges is gaining real-time insights into what is happening in the network. Smart data center networking infrastructure with built-in advanced telemetry capabilities is essential in getting those insights. Access to telemetry and orchestration allows them to quickly identify issues, ensure customer SLAs, rapidly troubleshoot problems and deliver digital services to their end-clients, partners and associates that improve efficiency, increase ROI and the ability to scale.
Increasing Digital Control
Examples of smart data center sophisticated new tools leveraging AI, ML and predictive technologies include:
- Digitization of Sustainability – Data digitization is enabling smart data centers to offer customer-tailored sustainability dashboards that provide dynamic, personalized data supporting their customers sustainability journey. Smart data centers are starting to give customers insight into their environmental impact by providing data on renewable energy usage, power and water consumption, carbon footprint and carbon savings. It automates access to PUE and WUE data that is typically difficult to obtain but often required for ESG reporting.
- Access to Live Power Data – In addition to innovative power analytics solutions that allow customers to view power draw at the suite, rack, circuit, even pole levels, smart data center customers can now deliver “live” power data down to the sub-minute level. This is particularly useful for large organizations that employ dedicated operations teams to integrate and analyze live, raw, power data. Live Power enables new opportunities for self-validation and self-investigation that did not exist before, such as orchestrating real-time alerts and equipment assessments.
- Unlocking the Power of MEP Data – Smart and connected data centers can now offer infrastructure level visibility into their customers’ electrical hierarchies. New mechanical, electrical and power visualization applications provide line of sight into all the upstream infrastructure that the customer’s critical environment relies upon ranging from their racks and panels, through PDUs, Static Transfer Switches, UPS’ and Generators – all the way up to our site’s utility feed. This allows them to clearly understand any potential risks and be assured that their environment is completely protected and that redundancy will be maintained if an incident does occur.
Where the Enterprise and Smart Data Center Meet
Today, smart data center providers have evolved to the point of sophistication where they are starting to intersect and meaningfully impact the ability of the large enterprise to scale and continue on its digital transformation journey. Smart and connected data center enterprise customers can get real-time access to hundreds of on-net networks and cloud providers and tens of thousands of end-points with a simple cross-connect. It is enabling these customers to have a dynamic, self-service digital model of their data center environment that embeds layers of critical electrical, security, power and sensor data including a 360 degree view of their racks for a complete, on-demand view, all from a mobile device.
This is game-changing for process automation and the economics of successful digital transformation. It’s game-changing for ESG requirements. It’s game-changing for how the data center cloud and connectivity ecosystems interact with the Internet itself. And its game changing for significantly enhancing the customer experience.
Seeking Scalability and ROI
Over the last five years QTS witnessed all of this as our large customers overcame challenges associated with increasing complexity and the need to scale. I believe we are reaching an inflection point where investment in technology efficiencies provided by smart data centers are starting to deliver significant ROI for large customers challenged by new technology, networking complexity and scale limitations.
You can visualize the value of the smart data center as a maturation curve where the capabilities of the on-premises enterprise data center intersects with the smart data centers ability to improve IT performance, increase ROI and the ability to scale.
- On one axis is “Time” – the need to keep up or get passed by.
- On the other axis is “Data Center Intelligence” – based on utilization of new technologies and tools driving advances in IT and business efficiencies.
As complexity continues to increase, and new technologies continue to be deployed to maintain ROI, large organizations will increasing seek data center providers with the expertise and connectivity ecosystems that continue to maximize their ability to scale. The best data center providers understand that a well-connected data center is essential to efficiently deliver its customers digital services.
They are focused on expanding their connectivity ecosystem, collaborating with key carriers, cloud providers and networks to strategically build more network routing infrastructure inside their smart facilities for high-performing lowest latency connections.
Today, the best data centers are born smart and born connected. They provide the visibility and digital control large enterprise, hyperscale and government organizations need to optimize their environments.
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