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More talking less borking: Communicating change in the data centre industry

(Image credit: Image Credit: Billion Photos / Shutterstock)

In the Data Centre (DC) industry, change is inevitable. As data consumption grows, DC infrastructure is expanding and evolving to meet it. Everyone, from the business decision makers to the engineers, is impacted by change — and it is not always handled in the best way. Large-scale enterprises have had to learn how to evolve their businesses quickly in the face of agile disruptors. Communication continues to be a roadblock as these businesses expand the digital side of their business. When it comes to data centre management, this problem is still prevalent.

The issue with managing change in a DC facility is that if you can't accurately predict its true performance, it is impossible to properly prepare or communicate what is needed to senior management. For instance, if a new cooling system is put in place and doesn’t deliver the expected results, operators are often left scrambling to mitigate a crisis due to the sudden change. This can ultimately result in complications, outages, unnecessary downtime and increases in OpEx. This lack of visibility and predictability can have devastating consequences if teams do not understand what has changed or how to communicate it clearly to the board. When communicating to senior executives who don’t necessarily have in-depth technical knowledge, understanding and demonstrating how adjustments to the DC infrastructure will impact the bottom line is vital. How can you facilitate more talking and less borking?

Data-driven decision maker

Independent research commissioned by Future Facilities has revealed a clear message from across the industry: better data allows for better decision making. Indeed, we see that quality data is a major gap in the industry. The study highlighted that 41 per cent of DC professionals would be able to make better decisions if they were to receive quality data in time, while a further 31 per cent would be more confident in the decisions they’re already making.

As businesses continue to make critical changes to their infrastructure to support increased demand and higher consumer expectations, human decision makers need a virtual helping hand. In the modern DC, this data is taking the form of a digital twin — a three-dimensional virtual representation of the actual facility that enables IT and Facility teams to experiment with potential changes without any of the associated risks. Many DC operators are still using disjointed tech platforms and ambiguous or missing data that can do more harm than good. Without a single point of truth to work from, different teams can fall into the trap of working in silos. As communications break down, teams lose the ability to work with precision.

Currently, it is standard practice within the DC industry for decisions to be made off gut instinct rather than informed data. Alarmingly, our research found that in one-third of data centres, temperature is being managed using rule of thumb. Combining this with the news that 40 per cent have suffered outages in their data centre because of human error and it is clear that serious steps need to be taken in how centres are managed. As siloed teams neglect a data-led approach, it becomes increasingly difficult to work towards optimum performance.

More talking, less borking

The data centre industry is at an inflection point. The need to change with greater speed and accuracy has made it necessary for businesses to rethink their approach to data centre management. Today, less than a third (29 per cent) of organisations have invested in three-dimensional modelling tools that could solve the problems they’re having in freeing capacity and avoiding outages. What’s more, only 22 per cent have proper simulations of their data centre in operation. This is set to change, however. Within the next 12 months, 67 per cent of organisations will have implemented CFD simulation technologies in their data centre. This is a significant step, as across hyperscale, enterprise and colo, three times as many organisations using CFD simulation have had zero outages in the past 12 months, as compared to those not using the technology.

This can be achieved by creating a digital representation of an existing or proposed facility, and sharing this with all teams involved. This is called a digital twin, and is enabling teams to eliminate uncertainty and gain the visibility they need to make decisions with confidence. It is unsurprising then, that Gartner has identified that 75 per cent of organisations are building their IoT strategy around a digital twin model.

As businesses head towards certain change, success will be defined by their ability to adapt to changing consumer needs. Never before have businesses been so totally reliant on their technology infrastructures. Adapting and evolving this infrastructure will be central to the delivery of real value from data centre investment. Success will be assured through implementing a data-driven approach to data centre management, operating from a digital twin model as a single point of truth, and democratising this technology for all teams involved. Change is often seen as the enemy of the data centre industry, but with the digital twin, this will no longer be the case.

Jonathan Leppard, Director, Future Facilities