At the 2016 L.A. Auto Show, Kia debuted the Sorento Ski Gondola, an autonomous concept car with bulldozer like wheels meant to take skiers up mountains. Innovative idea, but will it ever become a reality? Time will tell. What if we apply concept car type thinking to the data center of the future — what could it look like? How far out could we get?
In what I’ll call my “Star Wars” version of the data center:
- A 3MW load runs on a 2MW power train; maybe, everything is actually running off of energy storage alone. Even more, perhaps there will be no electricity at all, and systems will be laser powered.
- As we move to 5G and beyond, utilize more and more sensors, the futuristic facility might be completely wireless. Sensors and software automation could enable a human-free data center.
- As the IT kit changes, and chips can increasingly withstand higher operating temperatures, for instance, perhaps cooling units will only have to chill down to 88 degrees. Or could it be that in a galaxy far away, data centers won’t need cooling at all?
I’ll stop there and come back to a nearer term reality. Indeed, if we look ahead about five years, the future data center will be different. The approach to managing power and energy will change, and big data and analytics will help reduce capex, opex and risk.
These are goals of colocation providers and enterprises alike, but in the data center world of today, many components have reached their maximum efficiency. Additional tools and strategies will be needed to eke out more margin.
We could see data centers building in less resilience when it comes to UPS and backups — going from 2N to N+1 to N in the future. Over the last seven years, IT technology has taken resiliency and redundancy unto itself. Plus, more resilience is being added in applications and networks. High availability is still critical and lithium ion batteries and energy storage are newer solutions for power management that will change the data center as we know it.
Managing to a higher level and realizing additional savings will also come from collecting system information, assessing performance and making tweaks — subtle but significant changes that could not have been identified without the insight from big data and analytics.
For service providers, this can translate into competitive differentiation, for enterprises where data centers have historically been large cost centers, overhead can be lowered and budget reallocated to better support critical business processes.
Installing equipment sensors to monitor factors like vibration, voltage and humidity, for example, enables condition-based maintenance, which, in turn, lowers cost and risk. By running the sensor data through appropriate algorithms, facility managers can understand exactly when equipment needs servicing.
Eliminating unnecessary prescriptive maintenance also reduces downtime threat from human error. Plus, as equipment ages and there’s more frequent maintenance, the analysis can help project when equipment could fail so it can be replaced before breaking down.
Reality Versus Science Fiction
In reality, the data center of the near future will require more holistic thinking than ever, including a more strategic approach to power management and maintenance. Infrastructure must continue to follow the needs of the IT kit to, ultimately, meet the unique needs of business.
From a science fiction perspective, what’s your Star Wars version of the data center of the future look like? Tell us in the comments below.
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