4NG’s Chief Information Officer, Steve O’Hara who presented in the DCIM theatre at Data Centre World, ExCel London in April 2016, discusses how commoditisation of technology and tools can impact the monitoring and control of a data centre to reduce and manage energy consumption effectively.
How will the Internet of Things (IoT) affect data centre management?
Steve said, “The impact of IoT for the DC manager will be the driving down of the cost of industrial sensors and the means by which their data is harvested – this will be propelled by an increasing requirement from stakeholders for real time data and analytics and the need to operate in a changing energy supply market. All of these changes will mean that DC managers will have to increase the accuracy and breadth of their understanding of all aspects of their data centre from server performance, infrastructure and environment down to detailed usage and optimisation of energy.”
And what are the cost issues for data centres?
“One of the major sources of cost and operational risk is how you get the best out of your cooling assets – it remains the largest energy consumer outside of IT within the DC and is probably the area where the internet of things and big data have had the least effect to date – especially in legacy data centres with aging cooling equipment.”
A big challenge for a DC manager is being able to analyse and assess the effectiveness of cooling and where it can be optimised said Steve, “The man power cost of regular thermal, cooling and power audits is beyond the budget of most DC managers and usually is only justified after problems have arisen. If you do take the plunge, interpreting and acting upon that data can be a daunting task.”
Another issue looming on the horizon is that of ‘traditional’ grid energy supplies, which Steve says are likely to become less reliable with the increasing mix of renewables in the UK. “The opportunities and maybe even requirements, from government driven energy Demand Side Response (DSR) initiatives, will motivate DC managers to use their energy consuming/producing assets in different ways, to become part of their cost mitigation activities. The dilemma is how you achieve this safely with no operational risk.”
What notable innovations have been introduced for data centres?
“We are pioneers of Direct Free Air cooling systems for legacy ICT infrastructure and in our world, cooling represents one of the best areas for innovation and cost reduction,” says Steve. He explains that Free Air has made significant inroads in all sectors of the built environment and in the last 10 years, the ICT industry has not been immune from this direction of travel.
“The much maligned PUE measure has forced innovation in the sector but DC managers have been focussed for the most part on uptime. Add in the ups and downs of energy prices and once again cooling will become a major area for originality.”
The other area of innovation Steve sees is the cost of sensors and control. “Commodity based controller and sensor systems will drive down the costs of data acquisition, bringing it within the budgets of most managers to flood their data centre with new ‘information gaining’ transducers. This will breed innovation around low cost analytics for this mass of environmental and power data to drive change.”