Mark Fenton, Product Manager at Future Facilities, tells us why the data centre must become a more financially predictable and manageable asset, and how a data centre Digital Twin could turn out to be the CFO’s favourite investment.
A schism exists in the data centre. Too often there is a problematic gap between operational teams and the financial decision-makers who ultimately determine the fate of the business. But this gap doesn’t need to exist.
In any business, there will always be a need for ROI to be maximised, however, the data centre has remained an area in which transparency and control have been difficult to achieve – largely because of a lack of visibility. It simply hasn’t been possible to see – and understand – everything within a facility that influences its performance and cost. Now, times have changed. Today, IT and facilities teams can operate a data centre that also keeps their CFO happy…
Data centres at the heart of recovery
The past 12 months have shown that an acceleration of Digital Transformation has been possible. Ways of working that seemed years away for vast numbers of more traditional businesses have sprung into being, and many ‘digital-native’ organisations have capitalised on this with their products and services. And despite many sectors of the economy facing difficult times since early 2020, now in early 2021 there is a general sense of preparation for ‘what’s next’.
No one can predict exactly what’s coming next – but we do know that the increased use of applications, generation of data and demand for digital services will sit at the heart of this resurgence. Most importantly, this all needs to be seamless if organisations are to maximise their competitive advantage, be it through improved customer experience, faster time to market for products or more effective sales teams.
So the data centre has its moment to shine, but it must also become a more financially predictable and manageable asset.
Understanding ROI in the data centre
Let’s sit in the CFO’s chair. Too often the data centre appears as a financial sinkhole – because while its essential role is undisputed, there is always a sense that its capacity to handle workloads is not keeping pace with what was initially expected. Its power and cooling demands don’t seem to be reducing, despite advances in technology. And at some point, there will be that knock on the door asking for the budget to expand the data centre footprint. So, as margins tighten and the need to return value from each investment increases, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the ROI on many data centres.
This situation creates tension. IT and facilities teams – who may not share resources or reporting lines – are asked to deliver more, but frequently they may feel they cannot. In most data centres today, the facility is run at a conservative level to avoid outages. Operational teams are at full stretch to deliver performance from a facility that may not be optimised to deliver against such demands.
The CFO and their team will be seeking every opportunity to minimise cost and maximise return. The conservative management of the data centre can leave the CFO feeling like money is being left on the table. The difficulty lies in knowing whether the business can stay competitive at the current cost base, whether it needs to invest more, or whether the facility needs to deliver more value than its current run rate.
None of these things are a failing on the part of the CFO, IT, or the facilities organisation. They simply don’t all have the visibility they need to keep up their part of the deal – and they certainly don’t have a ‘common language’ to discuss these matters. Again, this is usually from a lack of visibility that can be solved, but typically is not.
Define data centre success with a Digital Twin
Simulation and forward-looking modelling is used everywhere from financial services to climate mapping. These are vastly complex environments with an almost endless set of seemingly unpredictable variables and yet the core principle of simulating future scenarios to better-inform decision-making is the norm.
For all its complexity, the data centre is far more predictable, and yet simulation remains at an early stage of adoption. The enclosed, carefully managed nature of the typical facility lends itself to the use of simulation based on computational fluid dynamics. This can generate an extraordinarily accurate picture of what’s happening in that space.
Using such tools, it’s already possible to create a highly accurate predictive model of your data centre – a Digital Twin, or virtual replica, of your real facility. Thanks to the capabilities of CFD, you can map and test your data centre in a completely safe, highly accurate virtual environment. This allows you to identify the remaining available capacity, to manage different facility variables before deploying changes in the live environment and to make adjustments to your IT systems without risk.
It gives you the information you need to maximise ROI and to understand the most expensive question of all – whether you need to increase or adapt your footprint. On an operational level, the Digital Twin provides a clearer picture across your IT and facilities systems by enabling integration of tools and creating a more complete operating picture of your facility. And it takes the term ‘visualise’ to its literal meaning – creating visual representations of the vastly complex data. This makes it easy to show key trends or patterns to all key stakeholders – not just in technical roles, but also to build better relationships with strategic and financial leaders. We’re in an era where margins of performance, resilience and cost are tight. So while the wrangling between IT and facilities teams – and in turn with financial leaders within the business – may all seem like business as usual, it doesn’t need to be this way. The data centre has always been an area where risk and cost collide. Thanks to simulation, a data centre Digital Twin can remove many of these pressures. It can help you turn your data centre into not only a higher performing environment, but also the CFO’s favourite investment.Click below to share this article