To Meet the IoT Challenge, Data Centers Must Leverage Industrial Automation

IO New Jersey Colocation Data Center

In a recent article in Industrial Automation Asia, IO Group Leader of Sustainability Patrick Flynn wrote about how, as IoT devices proliferate, the demand on data centers will increase, and as that happens, efficiency in the data center will become ever more critical. He explained the role of industrial automation – which brings together modules, DCIM software, and analytics – in ensuring data center efficiency.

Here, a recap of Flynn’s article. (Read the original version in Industrial Automation Asia.)

By 2020, there will be 26 billion installed Internet of Things (IoT) devices, according to Gartner. Many of those will be evolutions of machine-to-machine (M2M) devices. As IoT devices proliferate, the demand on data centers will increase. IoT data reside, get manipulated, and are made useable in data centers.

In the article, Flynn explained the role of industrial automation in ensuring data center efficiency in three parts:

  • The role of standardized, manufactured, sensor-integrated data center modules
  • The role of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software
  • The role of data analytics

Managing that trio can result in dramatically improved data center performance – including energy efficiency gains.

An independent study conducted in 2012 compared energy usage in IO’s traditional raised-floor data center with IO’s modular data center in the same building at the company’s headquarters in Phoenix. The study, performed by the power authority in Phoenix, found that the modular data center reduced energy overhead needed for cooling infrastructure by up to 44 percent. That efficiency improvement translates into average annual cost savings of US$200,000 per megawatt of average IT load – along with 1 million gallons of water saved and 620 metric tons of carbon dioxide eliminated.

How are these savings realized? By leveraging industrial automation.

The role of standardized, manufactured, sensor-integrated data center modules

In contrast to a containerized data center, which is literally housed in an old shipping container, the IO modular data center is manufactured in a BASELAYER factory under Design for Assembly (DFA) lean manufacturing methods.

Representative of the standardized, lean manufacturing approach, IO was awarded the data center industry’s first-ever modular data center safety certification by UL (Underwriters Laboratories), the world leader in advancing safety sciences. The certification demonstrates product safety to customers with trusted, powerful proof.

Beyond standardization, lean manufacturing, and certification, each data center module generates 700-1,000 different data points that allow for monitoring and control of operations including ambient conditions, power use and power quality, and data from auxiliary systems such as security and life safety. Elsewhere in the data center, the DCIM monitors the chiller, generator, switchboards and Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPSs).

The role of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software

The benefits of standardized, manufactured, sensor-integrated data center modules can be achieved only when the module is integrated with Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software.

DCIM has two overarching benefits: It enables continuous improvement; and it enables remote control and automation.

1. Continuous improvement

The standardized, manufactured, sensor-integrated modular data center and integrated DCIM enable us to aggregate and analyze operating data from all modules in the field. For example, we can benchmark the modules against each other to test how different environments affect the same infrastructure. To date we have 2.68 million operating hours (that’s 306 years equivalent), and counting, of operating data – providing insight that we can apply to optimize ongoing operations.

2. Remote control and automation

Pre-integrated with a data center module, DCIM can go beyond monitoring. For example, data center operators can remotely control cooling infrastructure including fans and chiller valves. They can remotely control application workloads. And much of that control can be automated.

A data center module with integrated DCIM also enables real-time optimization of data center performance. DCIM allows data center operators to dynamically change the set points of the data center in real time based on real-time feedback.

For organizations with multiple data centers, DCIM is able to integrate the operating data coming from each facility – and optimize decision making across all facilities. The benefit of integrating all data center assets – including modular data center and Building Management System (BMS) – under one monitoring and control system is that it provides a single view of data center operations across multiple locations, devices, and vendors.

Bottom line: The modular data center with DCIM offers a more intelligent view of data center usage.

The role of data analytics

Consider the standardized, manufactured, sensor-integrated data center module as the generator of data and the data center infrastructure management software as the conduit through which the data flows. The last piece of the puzzle, then, is the analytics to glean actionable insights from that data. All together, that is the source of data center optimization.

At IO, analytics involves data mining, predictive modeling, machine learning, and simulation to enable data center operators to optimize data center performance and to equip developers of digital infrastructure with information to design data-driven solutions.

IoT presents an issue and helps find a solution

Driven by the increasing demand for data centers to process more information, more quickly – and more efficiently – the automation of the data center is really just beginning. At IO, we envision a future in which the data center is fully automated – no human intervention necessary.

As you see, the IoT creates new opportunities to automate – and by extension, optimize – the data center itself. Fortunately, the rise of the Internet of Things is not only a catalyst for increasing demand on data centers; it also offers a solution.

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