Wendi Runyon, VP of Strategy and Innovation at Schneider Electric, takes a look at data center management through the lens of analytics and the power of the cloud. 

Wendi Runyon, VP of Strategy and Innovation at Schneider Electric

No one could have predicted how quickly the data center industry is evolving. In 2020, the shift from relying upon on-premise data centers to cloud and colocation providers took shape as demands for high-performing networks and connectivity gained momentum. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic served as a sudden forcing function for companies to implement remote working policies and technologies to support freshly distributed teams. Now, after we’ve seen two major trends collide, we’re realizing how much we depend on data centers to power our businesses and our daily lives. As a result, data center operators are now taking a step back to re-evaluate their approach to data center management to ensure they have the tools and strategies in place to guarantee business continuity for customers of all sizes and scopes.

Enter data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools. For years, data center operators have relied on these tools to monitor their environments, including how they control cooling and power, and monitor device status across the network. Today’s data centers now play an even more crucial role than ever, serving as the backbone to our digital lives. As companies increase their use and generation of data, they must be able to prevent – and even predict –  downtime, which can result in profitability loss and long-term effects on customer experience and retention.

To keep up with today’s demands, traditional DCIM must be reconfigured into next-gen tools that unlock the power of the cloud and predictive analytics to arm data center operators with the information they need to ensure mission-critical tasks are completed on-time and on-budget.

A New Approach Requires the Power of Analytics to Arm Teams with Information

 Until now, data center operating teams relied on maintenance strategies that occurred ad hoc and didn’t emphasize the use of data to glean new maintenance insights. Now, as data center infrastructure and the teams that oversee it become more dispersed, next-gen DCIM tools are required to reduce downtime by engaging predictive analytics to improve real-time visibility and prevent issues before they impact operations.

Today’s data center managers must contend with an influx of data coming in across the entire data center ecosystem, from grid to plug. No longer can companies rely solely on data from physical infrastructure to power operations, they must also incorporate key data from the entire energy ecosystem to improve operations. Data from the complete electrical distribution path – encompassing switchgear, automatic transfer switches (ATS), uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), cooling equipment and more – must be accessible to be acted on properly.

When put to use, data can address key pain points that have long plagued maintenance teams, like improving efficiency, reducing human errors and predicting system failures. Sophisticated data analytics is also key to helping drive down costs by helping data center operators understand where they need to make future investment to meet workload and capacity needs, as well as helping to forecast when a critical piece of infrastructure may begin to break down and need replacing. For example, if a problem arises with data center power distribution equipment reliability will be impacted, which can have a significant impact on downtime. With the right information at their fingertips, data center managers will not only be able to mitigate damage when a problem occurs, but can more accurately predict issues before they impact operations.  Armed with the right information, operators can improve visibility not only at the equipment level, but on a systemic level to help maintenance teams manage environments remotely and improve overall operational performance.

Today’s data center managers must contend with an influx of data coming in across the entire data center ecosystem, from grid to plug.

Cloud-Based Management Becomes Key to Driving Success

The massive increase in demand for connectivity is placing a burden on data centers to help customers ensure business continuity. The shift to cloud-based services has been a growing trend for the past couple of years, but 2020 was the catalyst for accelerated growth. According to IDC, cloud IT infrastructure spend will surpass non-cloud infrastructure spending, reaching $69.5 billion or 54.2% of the overall IT infrastructure spend. Cloud isn’t going away – in fact, it has the ability to unlock significant new capabilities for data center environments.

By hosting DCIM in the cloud, it becomes easier to deploy compared to on-premise tools, allowing operators to bring new systems online within the same day. By leveraging internet connectivity, powered by the cloud, data center sites become more easily manageable from a single, unified interface that can be accessed from almost anywhere at any time. Now operations teams can automatically collect and process facility data, empowering them with insightful performance information that delivers real-time data versus having to rely on manually logging machine information. Cloud-based tools also enable advanced technologies that support data center management, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to quickly and accurately analyze huge data sets on performance, power usage, security and more.

Next-gen DCIM, enabled by predictive analytics and cloud connectivity, delivers new functionality for operating teams that they haven’t had access to before. No longer do teams have to physically monitor dispersed systems and environments, they now have tools that connect and analyze data to gain new performance insights that can dramatically improve efficiency, reliability and profitability. With insights that go beyond communicating the health of a facility’s physical infrastructure to encompass insight from across its entire energy train, companies will be better equipped to prevent downtime and improve resiliency. Now more than ever, operators must be able to make sense of the dramatic increase in business data to ensure business continuity – being able to do so remotely is critical to the success of this digital transformation.

Wendi Runyon is VP of Strategy and Innovation at Schneider Electric.