In this Deep Dive, Dean Boyle, CEO at EkkoSense highlights the increased pressures faced by data centre teams as they work to deliver against their organisations’ demanding carbon reduction goals and net zero commitments.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the data centre industry?
It’s always exciting to set-up and develop new businesses and that’s particularly the case with EkkoSense which we set-up some seven years ago with the introduction of our distinctive 3D visualisation and analytics solution for data centres. We’re already helping to deliver data centre cooling energy savings of up to 30% per annum using our software-based optimisation approach. This is great, but there’s so much more to do. We estimate that data centre operators are currently overlooking a potential worldwide carbon emissions reduction of over 3.3m tonnes CO2-eq. per annum, so we’re going to be kept busy!
What first made you think of a career in technology/data centres?
For me it was probably a 50/50 choice. I was only every really interested in sport and technology, so it wasn’t a difficult decision for me to go down the IT route, initially working with mainframes and IBM AS/400 systems and getting involved in the technical management and delivery of large-scale customer projects. Having this kind of in-depth background has proved useful, as it provides a good understanding of the challenges faced by today’s data centre operators.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I’ve always tried to focus on removing any barriers that get in the way of people achieving and delivering to the best of their ability. For me that means having a relatively flat structure in place and making sure that we hire the best people – ideally those who are way more qualified and capable then I am!
I also expect to be challenged. I want people to tell me what they really think – that way we can work out the right direction and tactics. And then it’s important to trust people to get on with their jobs without too much interference. Having the EkkoSense team working from home during the pandemic clearly demonstrated our ability to deliver for customers and it’s great that we had the technology and structures already in place to help us achieve this.
What do you think is the current hot talking point within the data centre space?
There’s no doubt that there’s increased pressure on organisations to deliver on their carbon reduction and net zero commitments – and data centres are coming under increased focus as they are already established as one of the world’s highest collective consumers of energy.
However, delivering on these commitments and maintaining best practice standards is going to prove challenging for the many data centre and facilities teams that don’t yet have a clear understanding of how their rooms are performing from a thermal, capacity and power perspective. DCIM systems might be great at cataloguing what they have in the data centre, but what operations teams need is real-time visibility into how their rooms are performing right now. It’s only with this kind of granular insight that you can start to make the right decisions about capacity optimisation and – ultimately – energy reduction.
The good news is that, with EkkoSense, the kind of data-driven decision-making and scenario planning is already available to help them make the transition from simply monitoring critical facilities to identifying and actioning the steps needed to unlock carbon savings. Given this, it’s disappointing that many operators – especially co-los – seem reluctant to take advantage of tools that guarantee both an OPEX and carbon footprint reduction based on existing installed equipment.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
Lots of golf and running keeps me busy and I try to fit in two or three half-marathons each year.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Organisations are keen to use energy in smarter ways, so we’re seeing more and more interest in the optimisation. Now particularly, we’re working to help data centre operators as they work to balance cooling data centres more efficiently and delivering energy savings while at the same time recognising that demands on critical facilities have never been so intense.
Mobile Network Operator O2 is a great example of this, investing in optimisation to hit its efficiency targets as it progresses towards net zero by 2025. O2 has rolled out EkkoSense software optimisation across its entire estate. Our software uses smart sensors fitted to data centre equipment to monitor exactly how much cooling each site needs at any one time – and reports back on how to optimise cooling as demand changes. Working with EkkoSense, O2 expects to deliver energy savings equivalent to one million kilogrammes of CO2 year-on-year.
What are the region-specific challenges you encounter in your role?
It’s important that we recognise that we’re working in a sector that’s always changing, with often surprisingly significant regional variations. In the Middle-East, for example, there’s less acceptance of the cloud model with many organisations still preferring perpetual on premises pricing. In the APAC market there’s a much greater focus on data sovereignty. And we always need to understand how dramatically different energy costs – up to 3x more expensive in Europe than the US – still make a huge difference when building compelling data centre optimisation solutions.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the coming months?
Clearly the pandemic has had a massive impact – especially for data centre operations teams, who found it hard to get on-site in sufficient numbers due to lockdown challenges. Our ability to offer comprehensive remote data centre thermal monitoring proved an important differentiator for us and it’s a service that we believe will continue to be important as working conditions relax.
From my own perspective, perhaps the biggest change has been the arrival of Boris – our new pug. He’s become a regular fixture on EkkoSense Teams calls – whether he was welcome or not!Click below to share this article