Data Center

Take Your Hands Off the Wheel and Enjoy the Ride

Autonomous Emergency Braking – AEB – the next big thing in the automotive industry. If you believe the hype it’s only a matter of time before stopping a car in a hurry might be taken out of the hands (or feet) of drivers. The human benefits of AEB are huge, says an EC study which suggests that its adoption could reduce accidents by 27% and save around 8,000 lives each year.

The economic benefits are compelling too: Reduced congestion due to accidents could have a value of around $132 million in Germany alone. But that’s a drop in the ocean when you compare that figure to the costs associated with the accidental damage and loss of life described above, which is estimated to be as much as $10.5 billion.

OK – you don’t read this blog for car reports. But AEB has been around for over a decade and the point I want to make is that manufacturers have so far been very reluctant to override the natural instincts of drivers: Studies have shown that some drivers do not respond well when autonomous systems take over. There is a fear that if systems take control in traffic, drivers will simply let the car get on with it and chaos may ensue. We may become worse and less attentive drivers as a result.

The parallels with the data center sector are interesting. In recent years, sector experts have extolled the benefits of turning the heat up in the data center. Cooling is the most obvious target when it comes to data center efficiency and cost savings, yet when you walk into most rooms (and frankly, legacy data centers are worst) they are so cold that you can’t help feeling you’ve ceased to age and have entered a state of cryogenic suspension.

Overcooling is a problem for the industry as a whole. Over a decade ago Uptime Institute research revealed an average of 60% computer room cooling capacity was escaping. Last year Upsite Technologies said that little has changed in the intervening period. If this was a public health issue, it would be chronic. But when you look at it, the decisions which cause overcooling are not rational. It’s simply the outcome of  bad habits. Worse, as we have seen with companies gradually installing and implementing DCIM, no amount of good data can break those bad habits. State-of-the-art technology meets legacy thinking and nobody wins.

Now you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. In the case of the data center, in order to harness all the positive benefits of cooling which is more appropriate to load requirements, it seems that you actually have to take the human element out of the decision-making process and hand it over to the machines for Autonomous Cooling Control (my acronym).

Cooling control is the last step in an optimized DCIM solution and comes down the line from asset administration, monitoring data, capacity analysis and predictive management. But it’s an essential step towards a complete lifecycle – monitor, predict, plan and then ACT! The only caveat is leaving the system to do its thing without a single human intervening.

Ultimately I’m put in mind of the apocryphal story about the “factory of the future”. This is a highly automated and productive facility which is operated solely by one man and a dog. The man’s only job is to feed the dog. The dog is there to bite the man if he tries to touch any of the machines. Maybe this is the next evolution of DCIM!

Are you ready to take your hands off the wheel and let the system guide your data center?


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