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Enhancing data centre operations: Why robots pose no threat to human expertise

Enhancing data centre operations: Why robots pose no threat to human expertise

Facilities & ServersInsightsOperations & SystemsSoftwareTop Stories

Ozgur Duzgunoglu, Head of Engineering and Design, Telehouse, outlines the benefits of automation for data centre facilities and how robotics and humans can work to enhance each other’s strengths, helping to foster innovation and drive operational excellence.

Data centre demand has accelerated rapidly in the last few years. Data-generating and data-hungry technologies, including cloud computing and IoT, have enabled expansion in the global data centre market. In fact, it is speculated that the market will reach US$105.6 billion by 2026, up from US$48.9 billion in 2020. To keep up with the escalating demand, the hyperscale data centre seen today is typically a densely populated, complex and interconnected building.

For data centre operators overseeing these operations, the risk of downtime has never been more detrimental to customers, with reliability on 24/7 secure access. However, the proactive monitoring of all the associated components, including IT facilities and security, requires unprecedented levels of visibility and oversight. Dispersed teams essentially require radar-like skills to be able to actively monitor all the equipment and respond to any issues or faults as soon as possible.

With human resource stretched to its limits, more businesses are exploring the potential benefits offered by robotics, particularly as automation falls under the spotlight as a way of incorporating day-to-day scheduling, application delivery and other tasks. While previously derided as the threat to people’s careers, robots are showing their value in augmenting human capabilities and providing greater visibility across the data centre ecosystem. The latest innovations are even enabling the automation of otherwise mundane activities to enable faster response and resolution times and drive greater efficiencies, all while easing the pressure on the human worker.

Clear communication 

In the sprawling and busy environment of the modern data centre, it’s vital that security, IT and other facilities are able to communicate quickly and efficiently. If this is not ensured, data management systems will be held back from seeing the ecosystem in its entirety. The issue that arises from here is faults or hazards going unnoticed before evolving into a much bigger issue, or mixed messages creating delays in identification of a fault.

To overcome this issue, operators need a centralised reference point that gathers all this information to enable rapid responses. Where hazard checks are currently undertaken on control systems by data centre personnel, robotics can help augment this responsibility by offering a single source of truth. With all the information in one place, efforts can be streamlined.

Just one robot is able to obtain a 4k quality, in-depth and 360-degree visibility across all areas of a data centre. With these capabilities, the machine is not just able to resolve issues itself, but can also communicate any irregularities back to humans for them to apply fixes. Security and compliance can be ensured by the robot thanks to its ability to enhance functionality across the data centre ecosystem. No matter their skill, humans are limited in their capability to spot certain hazards in a crowded data centre environment, particularly if it’s not something immediately obvious such as a missing fire extinguisher. ‘Blind spots’ can occur, meaning that some faults can go unnoticed until they are flagged after an external party, customer or employee makes a complaint.

Even just one robot can flag multiple safety hazards that may not even be related to each other. By being able to complete manual checks in a fraction of the time it would take for humans to do so, security, facility and environmental health insights can be delivered to numerous departments.

AI-driven sensors and heat mapping

Intelligent robotics add further value with their ability to autonomously map and navigate a data centre, which is made possible with its self-driving technology. Real-time sensor data can be leveraged by the robot to create a baseline of established norms and flag any anomalies to humans. By removing the risk of distraction or focus away from a potential issue, the technology can give a rapid level of multi-layered intelligence that humans cannot achieve.

In terms of the variables that can be measured, AI-driven sensors and heat mapping visualisations can provide visibility of increased or decreased temperatures, air quality index, smoke and gas levels inside the premises. These live datasets can then give employees the insight to proactively deal with any issues.

A significant proportion of unplanned outages are caused by factors such as water leakage, heat, extreme weather or failure of the equipment. Controlling temperature and humidity is therefore critical to protect sensitive equipment from moisture damage and high temperature, which can ultimately cause system failure and data loss. Intelligent robotics can be applied here to assist with the advanced reporting of humidity and temperature levels, enabling staff to gain an extra layer of visibility while also helping to balance workloads, costs and energy efficiency throughout the data centre. Intelligent robotics can use sensors data, facility management system’s data and work with humans.

Humans and intelligent robots side-by-side

Rather than the villainous entities that robots have been portrayed to be over the years, they can in fact play a key role alongside humans and augment their job role, rather than take it from them. Gartner now predicts that half of cloud data centres will have AI-driven robots deployed by 2025. The only tasks that robots should undertake are those that people should not have had to complete in the first place. By actively taking over responsibility for the tedious, time-consuming and repetitive actions in a data centre, humans are better placed to apply their skills and abilities into more strategic and value-adding areas. Robotics and humans can therefore work to enhance each other’s strengths, helping to foster innovation and drive operational excellence.

While automation has typically been a feature of data centre operations for some time, it’s the benefits of robotics that are enabling new innovations. As consumer demand grows due to increased data volumes and greater connectivity requirements, data centres require the all-in-one and multidisciplinary capabilities of robots to streamline the plethora of processes that now take place in a modern data centre. Humans and technology can be brought together to enable constant levels of security, autonomy and productivity.

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