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Sunbird president on the trends reshaping data centre management

Sunbird president on the trends reshaping data centre management

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Modern data centre managers find themselves in a new normal with unique challenges and opportunities. Herman Chan, President, Sunbird Software, tells us how the industry is pivoting to a remote data centre management model and how DCIM software enables teams to manage their sites remotely to enable Business Continuity.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, industry trends were pointing towards the need for data centres to be managed remotely. Increasing use of remote infrastructure models such as colocation, Edge Computing and retail digitisation necessitated the use of tools that enabled data centre and IT managers to monitor their assets, power infrastructure and environment conditions from any given location.

Then, the pandemic struck and infrastructure management changed overnight. According to IDC, 78% of organisations experienced an impact on their data centres due to supply chain constraints, limited physical access and higher demand for services. A total of 40% reported that they were limited in their ability to manage their infrastructure. Many existing trends rapidly accelerated such as increased colocation to avoid costly new constructions and increased use of third-party managed services for remote deployments.

Top data centre management trends in the new normal

Data centre managers now find themselves in a new normal with unique challenges and opportunities. While many were left scrambling to maintain operations in 2020, plans and budgets are now being prioritised as the top data centre challenges and priorities become clear.

  • Demand for digital services explodes. The pandemic drove all interaction with the outside world online, causing a dramatic spike in the utilisation of server compute, storage and network resources. Google’s Hangouts Meet platform saw its daily usage reach 25 times more than typical levels, Verizon reported that online gaming traffic surged by 75% in one week, Zoom saw a 2,000% increase in daily meeting participants and Akamai saw a 50% increase in Internet traffic. Given COVID-19’s impact on data centres, operators must find ways to quickly add capacity without experiencing downtime.
  • Work from home and minimal onsite staff. Social distancing and restrictions on the number of personnel that can be onsite at any time are now commonplace. Uptime Institute reported that 85% of data centres increased remote working and 77% reduced onsite personnel. These changes are here to stay, with 77% of data centres planning to continue remote work for years to come. With physical access to the data centres extremely limited, data centre managers are increasingly leveraging intelligent infrastructure and remote management tools to oversee their data centres from anywhere.
  • More complex infrastructure and more distributed sites. While on-premises data centres still support the majority of workloads, that piece of the pie is shrinking. Alternative workload deployments look more attractive to organisations that seek flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and increased efficiencies. A total of 70% of data centre professionals reported to Service Express that Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity are the leading drivers of moving workloads off-premises. Organisations seek to mitigate risk from potentially uncertain global environments and to maintain operations in the face of vulnerabilities caused by COVID-19. Other motivating factors for migrations include lower capital costs, improved security, rapid capacity expansion and infrastructure consolidation. The distributed nature of modern data centre and Edge environments means operators must manage the assets, connections, power and environment across many locations without the ability to go onsite.
  • Large need for remote planning and collaboration tools. Improving internal processes and collaboration is one of the top priorities for data centre managers in 2021. Since data centre professionals are unable to go onsite, whether it’s because of COVID-19-driven restrictions or because the infrastructure is remote, there is a need for clear and concise visual instructions for smart hands. Work activity must be done accurately the first time to reduce the time spent in these sites, reduce the number of visits and mitigate a leading cause of downtime: human error. To improve productivity and efficiency, remote data centre teams must break down organisational domains and share a single source of truth via common views of remote data centre management dashboards and reports that are updated and visible in real-time.
  • Increased focus on reducing costs and increasing efficiency. Total data centre spending decreased in 2020 as economic uncertainty resulted in organisations pausing expansion plans and tightening budgets. While spending in 2021 is increasing, Service Express found that nearly half of all organisations’ top priority for the next 12 months is to reduce IT costs and improve efficiencies. For many, this is not an easy task, with nearly three-quarters of respondents reporting that their top challenge relates to budget and cost reductions. Consolidating data centre footprints and moving from an on-premises to a hybrid cloud model are the leading initiatives organisations will take to save money. Tools that enable accurate and agile capacity planning of all space, power, cooling and connection resources will be increasingly leveraged to improve the efficiency of capacity utilisation.
  • Security remains important. Strengthening security and privacy is the number one priority for data centre professionals going into 2021, according to Service Express’s survey. Organisations must remotely protect assets and data with tools that can manage and remotely control electronic door locks, watch real-time camera feeds and provide real-time audit logs to ensure compliance with requirements and regulations.
  • Continued emphasis on sustainability. Global data centre energy consumption is so massive, that if all the data centre sites in the world were a country, they would rank as the 5th largest energy consumer. Yet, even with the incredible growth of global data centres in the past decade, actual data centre energy consumption only increased by 6% because of the industry’s commitment to going green. In the new normal, organisations will continue to pioneer new ways to increase energy efficiency and meet sustainability goals while decreasing operating costs.

A new way forward with DCIM software

Given these trends, one thing becomes obvious: data centre and infrastructure teams need tools that allow them to remotely manage their sites. Organisations understand this and are reallocating budgets and finding funds to implement tools like Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software. Data centre professionals understand the additional efficiency and productivity DCIM software provides and are developing comprehensive remote data centre management strategies to succeed in 2021 and beyond.

Consider the following DCIM trends:

Bringing it all together

In the new normal, data centre teams must maintain uptime, increase efficiency and improve productivity with minimal personnel onsite and limited remote visibility of their environments. They face challenges that have made data centre management more difficult than ever.

However, the trends show that the industry is pivoting to a remote data centre management model in which teams can plan capacity, track assets and connections, visualise sites in 3D, complete tasks without physical access and collaborate around shared KPIs and dashboards regardless of where they or where their sites are.

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