Utilising IT monitoring for data centre operations

Utilising IT monitoring for data centre operations

Felix Berndt, Regional Sales Manager of Asia Pacific, Paessler

Felix Berndt, Regional Sales Manager of Asia Pacific, Paessler, discusses the South East Asian region and how a holistic monitoring solution can ensure progressive decisions for data centres to align with businesses’ Digital Transformation goals.

In an increasingly hyperconnected world, everything revolves around the consumption or generation of data. Skyrocketing data usage accelerated by the proliferation of data-reliant technologies such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence and IoT, as well as a digital lifestyle emanating from hybrid, remote working, online shopping and digital content consumption, has led to a spurt in data centres.

With Paessler’s research showing that 55% of businesses in Singapore consider Digital Transformation their foremost priority in 2023, data centres are becoming a mission-critical aspect of every IT environment and vital for operational excellence. According to market research company, Statista, the amount of data created, captured, copied and consumed worldwide is expected to grow from around 59 zettabytes ZB in 2020 to around 149 zettabytes in 2024 – an exponential increase. Across the South East Asia (SEA) region, the race is on to invest and expand in the growing data centre market. As global tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft ramp up their data centre operations across SEA, the region is fast emerging as a hotbed for data centre players. 

The green quotient

As per Paessler’s research, 50% of businesses in Singapore have a sustainable IT strategy in place and are acting on it and data centres are likely to be a crucial component of such a strategy considering the heat is quite literally on. Processing, storing and managing the data requires significant use of energy, which has put the spotlight on sustainability. As data centres continue to increase in number, so will their energy demands as they house particularly power-hungry equipment that drives high performance and high availability mission-critical applications.

But does the data centre or colocation provider have a sustainability strategy to get there while driving their business forward? Are their goals measurable? Are they exploring renewable energy or innovative technologies? Have they adopted sustainable measures across operations? These are vital questions that require attention.

Addressing the energy drain

One of the two primary drivers for energy consumption within a data centre is running the IT equipment itself. Within a typical data centre, there are many types of technical equipment, virtually all of which run on electricity. This includes power-intensive equipment such as servers, storage systems, large-scale infrastructure – such as backup generators and power subsystems – as well as computers, routers, applications, software, data traffic and services. This equipment is often tightly packed into a facility and needs to run 24/7 in order to process the massive amounts of data stored within. This, in turn, generates large amounts of heat from the IT equipment.

In order to prevent overheating and avoid damage, data centres need to be maintained within a very narrow temperature band throughout the course of their operation. Here is where another major energy consumer comes in – the cooling system.

Data centres need an enormous amount of power to operate a cooling system as it maintains ventilation, temperature, humidity levels and supports all in-house equipment. Data centres today are adopting sustainable measures to minimise their dependency on a traditional cooling system; Paessler’s research shows that 82% of data centres have a sustainable IT strategy in place.

Some players are building their data centres high in the mountains to leverage the cold temperature. For instance, Microsoft is experimenting with an underwater data centre ‘Project Natick’ off the coast of Scotland’s Orkney Islands. However, a tropical region like SEA neither has constant cold wind nor is surrounded by cold water sources, and hence, strongly relies on a power-operated cooling system. In such a scenario, data centres should focus on improving water utilisation to optimise power usage.

Monitoring to the rescue

90% of businesses in ASEAN see the benefit of real-time IT infrastructure monitoring while 81% of businesses in Singapore foresee real-time monitoring as a way to optimise energy consumption. The foundation of evaluating the energy efficiency of a data centre lies in the ability to quantify energy efficiency. Without measuring a data centre’s energy consumption, it is not possible to track the baseline, progress and identify opportunities to optimise energy efficiency.

One way to measure energy consumption is through Power Distribution Units (PDUs). PDUs distribute and control electric power, especially to the various racks and cabinets present within a data centre. However, advanced PDUs have remote monitoring functionality through which operators can track, log and review real-time data, such as power consumption, distribution, fluctuations, uptime and load level. When PDUs are integrated with a monitoring solution that consistently measures and records energy consumption, it helps data centres have a real-time overview of energy usage across their entire IT infrastructure.

This includes the ability to comprehensively monitor all constituents of a data centre which includes both technical and operational essentials such as cooling and power systems across multiple locations. In all, combining the data output from a PDU with a holistic monitoring solution leaves data centres in a much better position to detect energy hogs, identify irregularities, monitor trends and improve energy efficiency planning. It helps data centres make informed decisions to manage their overall use of power and optimise business costs.

While there is an incessant demand for data consumption, managing energy utilisation in a sustainable way is the future of the data centre industry. But, the challenges are more diverse and widespread. Operational challenges such as supply chain disruptions, balancing cost and efficiency, capacity management, rising energy costs and security concerns, are compounded by businesses perceiving Digital Transformation and sustainability in silos. In such a scenario, there is an increasing expectation for environmental sustainability in the data centre business. However, an individual, government, company, or industry cannot solve this. Sustainability requires a holistic approach and hinges on participation from every stakeholder.

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