Understanding the Data Center Management Journey

April 20, 2022
The only way to truly embrace digital infrastructure is to understand the significant trends in today’s data centers. Bill Kleyman looks at several key trends and assessing how legacy systems impact your digital ambitions.

Last week we launched an article series on designing data centers for observability, resiliency, and better operations. This week, we’ll explore the journey from legacy to modern data center infrastructure.

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Change is the current constant in the modern data center landscape. It’s essential to take a reflective look at the business to understand how legacy solutions might be impacting the overall approach to new digital trends.

Can the business’s systems appropriately support more significant efficiency, density and sustainability levels? How old are the systems running the most critical parts of the company? Has there been a refresh recently? Research from ABB indicates that just 29% of data center decision-makers say their current facilities are meeting their needs, and only 6% say their data centers are updated ahead of their needs. Security (45%) and bandwidth (43%) are the most needed upgrades.

Another critical concern with legacy systems is the observability of the entire digital infrastructure portfolio. Visibility into the technical and business aspects of the organizations is vital to reduce errors and improve operational efficiency.

The only way to truly embrace a digital infrastructure is to understand the significant trends in today’s data centers. When it comes to data center design, consider these new and critical trends.

  • There are new solutions around distributed computing and edge. According to Gartner, around 10% of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. By 2025, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 50%, meaning that services around the edge will continue to evolve and grow. Furthermore, the edge will require a broader focus on connectivity and telecommunications for the best possible experience.
  • 5G and new methods of connectivity will impact digital modernization efforts. Gartner also noted that 5G was one of the main drivers for mobility in 2020, with the market for 5G infrastructure hitting more than $4 billion and two-thirds of companies deploying 5G in 2020. The connectivity around 5G and new telecommunication solutions are poised to revolutionize how we work, live and stay productive. According to Ericsson, towards the end of 2020, there were already more than 92 commercial 5G networks in 38 countries, with more than 320 million 5G subscribers forecasted in the United States by the end of 2025.
  • The OT and IT Convergence. In the past, operational technologies and information technologies were two completely isolated pieces of an organization that interacted and often operated independently. Today, that line is blurred to a point where many leading organizations integrate OT and IT into one intelligent platform governed by security, process automation, greater intelligence, and improved data governance and security. For many, this represents the ultimate goal in working with OT, IT and third-party partners to support each process. A significant change is the treatment of OT, which previously was not a part of the more extensive network or data center ecosystem within an organization or face the Internet. With more connected systems and IoT, this has all changed. It’s a critical reason that leaders in the technology space are actively looking for solutions that give them true portfolio-level visibility into all connected systems.
  • IoT is now everywhere. The proliferation of connected devices will not likely slow any time soon. There’s a connected revolution going on from personal smart devices to the inside the walls and ceilings of modern buildings. For example, smart buildings, where devices converge onto a shared IT infrastructure, can deliver more operational functions and improve occupant experience.

How can data center providers keep an eye on all of this? With the mandate of “do more with less”, what are leaders doing to avoid data fatigue where data center and business operators simply don’t know what to examine first.

Let’s look at some emerging design and partner considerations.

New Solutions Create New Design and Partner Considerations

Designing around a growing portfolio of digital infrastructure can often be a daunting task. So, if the goal is building, retrofitting, upgrading the environment, or improving visibility into overall operations, consider the following advice:

  1. Engage innovation-focused, global partners that can provide collaborative, consultative guidance from design to operation to decommissioning phases
  2. Deploy an R&D focus well-suited for managing high-density environments
  3. Have a clearly defined road map for the business’s future
  4. Look for improved solutions aimed at faster deployment and simplified maintenance
  5. Collaborate with engineering and architectural teams to quickly design, modify and customize solutions
  6. Create portfolio-level visibility to identify the issues faster, thereby reducing associated risks while bundling resilience
  7. Synergize operations and processes across all locations for global consistency
  8. Enlist partners that can design solutions that are affordable, efficient, flexible and provide portfolio-level visibility

When creating digital infrastructure, it’s essential to consider partners that help deliver building management controls, security and life safety technologies paired with critical power and thermal solutions. These designs help operators achieve maximum data center uptime, sustainability and cost-efficiency goals.

It’s essential to get to a state of operation quickly when an issue occurs; however, in combination with a good data analytics platform, root- cause analytics can help understand what happened while remediating the problem quickly.

Challenges in the Digital Age

New solutions are changing the way technology leaders design critical infrastructure. New designs are helping engineers and architects create denser and more efficient solutions within data center walls.

Data center operators and managers set their sites in innovative designs, from new cooling solutions to renewable energy sources to gain a competitive edge. Beyond traditional solutions, leaders are still asking the following questions around challenges in a persistently connected world:

  • Can our digital infrastructure work smarter, better and more sustainably?
  • How can we provide more innovative solutions?
  • How are downtime and outages dealt with?
  • Is it possible to leverage systems to help comply with various environmental requirements, compliance regulations and data privacy demands?
  • Is it easy to find the cause and not just a resolution if a problem occurs?

New solutions can allow data center professionals to quickly root cause issues within the environment. This insight can help before and after a potential problem. An analytics-first approach can examine failures within the network, data center ecosystem, or even an integrated component related to configurations, patch levels and system updates. From there, leaders can better understand risk and respond accordingly. It’s essential to get to a state of operation quickly when an issue occurs; however, in combination with a good data analytics platform, root-cause analytics can help understand what happened while remediating the problem quickly.

The Data Center ‘Great Resignation’

Another critical concern facing the data center industry is skilled labor shortage.

A recent ZDNet post states that as demand for digital capabilities grows, a shortage of qualified data center professionals becomes more acute. Today’s data center teams increasingly require both operations and development skills. Nearly half of owners and operators in a recent Uptime survey report difficulty finding skilled candidates, up from 38% in 2018. As such, 75% of respondents believe that most data center professionals have long-term job security. This means it’s great to be in the data center industry, but we need to let more people know about it.

New solutions and tools need to be delivered to give engineers and data center operators the level of insight to make predictive and prescriptive decisions around their digital infrastructure.

In today’s persistently connected world, a data center must accommodate an OT+IT converged infrastructure and its people in the most efficient way possible. Infrastructure needs the space to grow and evolve with new circumstances, technology and user requirements.

Download the entire paper, “The Data Center Human Element: Designing for observability, resiliency and better operations,” courtesy of Honeywell, to learn more. In the next article, we’ll examine how observability has changed to support digital infrastructure. Catch up on the previous article here.

About the Author

Bill Kleyman

Bill Kleyman is a veteran, enthusiastic technologist with experience in data center design, management and deployment. Bill is currently a freelance analyst, speaker, and author for some of our industry's leading publications.

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