The changing world of data centres

By Mike West, Managing Director, Keysource.

For the last few years the data centre sector has remained relatively static as the market has matured and consolidated. However we have started to see changes in the key drivers that influence the market and this is set to continue.


Firstly, increasing energy costs have put a renewed focus on energy management and we have seen a significant increase in customers asking for help in capturing energy data, either through technology solutions or consultancy services. The next stage has been for us to provide advice on how to better manage their estates to reduce costs.


This is understandable as the data centre industry is a huge consumer of power and this consumption is set to continue. The industry will need to continue to demonstrate that power is being used efficiently to satisfy both regulatory and business requirements. 


In addition to increasing energy costs, the shift towards cloud services is influencing a growing requirement for higher capacity data centres that can be scaled-up quickly to adopt higher densities. As a result innovative cooling solutions and modular designs, that are quick to deploy and commission, are increasingly appealing.


So what should we expect in the next 12 months?


 As we continue to strive towards the fully automated data centre, I think 2016 could be the year we start to see dynamic moving of compute between data centres to find the most effective environment for efficient operation. An example of this could be to move compute from high ambient environments where free cooling is less likely, to lower ambient environments where the opportunity to free cool is greater.


The trend for more larger scale facilities will continue, and be augmented with smaller regional and 'edge' data centres to deliver content and proximity dependent services. As the resilience of IT services moves to the application layer, facilities will need to be cheaper to build with less M&E resilience, less complexity but higher efficiency and modularity. All this will continue to drive and challenge AC vendors in this space.


There are inevitably a number of issues to overcome that organisations will need to consider. Integrating M&E into the technology stack to maximise performance of data centres will be a key challenge, but it will provide huge opportunities to improve performance, reduce energy consumption and operational costs for operators. 


M&E businesses will need to better understand the technology that their systems support in order to integrate and optimise performance. A real shift in thinking in all industries will be driven by the Internet of Things concept across every sector. As a result there are excellent opportunities in a growing market with plenty of scope to innovate and this is being driven by the next generation of the Internet 


Moving forward the industry will need to stop thinking about DCIM just as a software package that saves money out of the box. DCIM is an opportunity to operate IT effectively and the standardisation of processes reduces risk and makes changes to IT more manageable and predictable.


The visibility of IT assets in conjunction with M&E enables IT managers to report and act on operational availability and accurately plan capacity needs. As we continue to build highly efficient M&E we need to focus on our ability to make compute as efficient as possible. Trending CPU utilisation against server power consumption through DCIM will enable compute utilisation studies and the opportunity to consolidate or sweat the IT asset.


 Finally cost, reliance and availability of power along with the ability to truly integrate renewable and sustainable power generation into the scheme are all important factors moving forward. We are already seeing some new entrant data centre operators taking a revolutionary approach to integration of power generation with data centre facilities to reduce cost in a sustainable way. 


In short it is an exciting time for our industry and I for one am looking forward to it.

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