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Green IT: Why a sustainable DCIM is key

Green IT: Why a sustainable DCIM is key

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As organisations explore DCIM (data centre infrastructure management), it’s crucial that their strategies around Green IT and sustainability align. Kevin Brown, Senior Vice President, EcoStruxure Solutions, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric, highlights how Schneider Electric is investing in products and solutions that will help CIOs meet the challenges of resiliency, security and sustainability.

Kevin Brown, Senior Vice President,  EcoStruxure Solutions, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric

How does sustainable DCIM (Data Centre Infrastructure Management) influence data centre success strategies?

A big part of what we are accomplishing with our customers is defining what success looks like to them. Once you can define it, you can start on a sustainability journey to accomplish it. The CIO is responsible for the overall IT infrastructure whether it’s in the cloud, on-prem or in colocation facilities. While success on the sustainability front may look different to different CIOs, we have seen a general lack of Green IT strategy for the entire infrastructure. What we know is that regulations are coming, and Europe is leading the charge with the European Union’s Energy Efficiency Directive and Fit for 55 with its goal of reducing EU emissions by 55% by 2030. Organisations will have to comply and, for many, complying will be considered a benchmark of success. But beyond compliance, we believe regulations may be coming for smaller environments as well, which is yet another reason that a Green IT strategy is necessary.

As a data centre specialist, how does sustainable DCIM align with industry trends and sustainability goals?

As a software category, DCIM is in a very interesting position when it comes to Green IT and sustainability. DCIM is the essential connection point between your IT infrastructure and the OT infrastructure supporting it. It represents a critical juncture because not only can it track and tell you the actual energy consumption of your IT infrastructure, it can identify all of your assets. Essentially, DCIM is in a unique position to help answer the sustainability questions that CIOs are going to be asked, like: ‘What is your IT carbon footprint?’. And the inevitable next question: ‘What are you doing to manage it?’.

For example, at Schneider Electric, our DCIM software suite EcoStruxure IT can report on nearly 80% of sustainability metrics and we will be introducing new dashboards soon to enhance that reporting. We are investing in our products and solutions and our team is creating modern DCIM that will help CIOs to meet the challenges of resiliency, security and sustainability.

What operational challenges arise in a sustainable DCIM implementation and how can they be effectively addressed?

Historically, DCIM has focused on resiliency, not energy consumption and sustainability. The data was there but it was difficult to extract and really hard to organise. Times have changed. Modern DCIM is oriented around sustainability and making sure you have everything in place, such as sensors, compute and cooling, and figuring out how to optimise it. We are constantly addressing operational challenges and working on better APIs and improved data organisation.

I understand that operational challenges are hard, but they can be overcome. CIOs will have to understand what assets they have in their IT infrastructure and DCIM is the key to understanding it. Green IT takes a data-driven approach to baselining and measuring an enterprise’s IT footprint and taking effective actions to reduce it.

How should unexpected obstacles in the implementation process be managed with regulatory compliance in mind?

On any sustainability journey, there will be obstacles, so expect them. In addition to setting realistic goals and creating specific plans for sustainability, success is driven by the ability to adapt as we learn. With DCIM, CIOs managing distributed, sprawling IT environments are creating baselines, using the same methodology, and tracking metrics for the entire IT infrastructure in a uniform way. We are reducing the complexity so CIOs can get started and demonstrate progress on the road to compliance.

One CIO we worked with created a sustainability team that set a realistic reduction goal of 5%. The team encountered obstacles but learned from them and changed course when needed. The team ended up experiencing a 30% reduction in energy consumption and a 30% reduction in CO₂ emissions.

How does Schneider Electric’s portfolio address the unique demands of sustainable DCIM for data integrity, real-time monitoring and energy efficiency? 

At Schneider Electric, we’ve been supporting customers to monitor and manage their IT physical infrastructure for years. We started with providing software that worked in conjunction with UPS network management cards to protect the server environment from threats to IT availability. We then evolved our solutions to support the refined data centre. More recently, environments have become more distributed and denser. At Schneider Electric, we evolved our DCIM solution, EcoStruxure IT, to make the hybrid distributed environments more resilient, secure and sustainable.

Today, EcoStruxure IT is a full DCIM solution suite with monitoring and management of power and cooling devices as well as physical security and environmental monitoring, planning and modelling, and – as we know a one-size fits all solution is not always what our customers need – we provide tailored solutions with our EcoStruxure IT – Custom Solutions team. Our DCIM solutions are used to maximise the efficient use of power, cooling and space resources. DCIM improves the availability and resiliency of physical infrastructure systems and the IT workloads they support.

EcoStruxure IT enables customers to create a digital twin of their IT whitespace. It allows capacity management to minimise IT footprint, simulate layout for cooling optimisation and obtain energy efficiency down to a subsystem level. DCIM allows customers to obtain accurate real-time power consumption with monitoring and management solutions and monitors environmental conditions to optimise and maintain performance of power and cooling infrastructure.

How does Schneider Electric’s software contribute to the integration and efficient management of sustainable DCIM ensuring security and sustainability objectives?

First, there are two aspects to security. The cybersecurity of the solution itself and then physical security of the environment around the IT equipment.

From a cybersecurity standpoint, we have invested heavily in this area to ensure we are meeting the best standards available. For example, we have recently introduced the Secure Network Management Card System, which includes the independent cybersecurity certification for the NMC3 version 3.0 firmware (IEC 62443-4-2). We are also working on ISO 27001 certification for EcoStruxure IT Expert before the end of 2024. We have also significantly increased our R&D resources dedicated to ensuring we are maintaining our code with regular and frequent updates.

From a physical and environment standpoint, we have capabilities for customers to monitor environmental threats – leak detection and ambient temperature and humidity. And we can also provide remote cameras that capture video when an event is detected, saving those clips for later forensics. Many customers also use the DCIM solution to lock down their racks with permission-based entry and tracking. Robust tracking capabilities provide an audit trail of all this activity.  Many of these capabilities have been used in some of the best-run data centres – with the increased focus on security, we think these best practices should be applied across the entire infrastructure. 

From a sustainability view, EcoStruxure IT plays an increasing role in addressing sustainability by providing better visibility and ability to track PUE, energy and carbon.

Measure energy efficiency down to sub-system level and deliver standard and customised reports and dashboards to report findings. We have developed data models that allow us to greatly simplify much of this work and, with our vast data lake, we’ve been able to test and validate the accuracy of these models. 

How do you see sustainable DCIM shaping the future of environmentally conscious data centre design and operations?

A recent study by CapGemini found 43% of executives were not aware of their organisation’s IT footprint. This is leading CIOs to monitor and measure the impact of their IT infrastructure. It starts with knowing what IT assets they have under management and understanding where the assets are located. Then they need to determine metric data sources and deploy metering software. DCIM can aggregate the data collect and report on total energy consumption but sustainable DCIM has the power to go beyond energy consumption.

At Schneider Electric, our own CIO organisation has a Green IT program to understand, measure and reduce the impact of their IT footprint. Our DCIM team has been closely working with the team to learn from their challenges. One of the big challenges they are facing is increasing sustainability reporting and regulatory requirements of their IT infrastructure.

We are improving our portfolio for customers to use existing tools and solutions to navigate the new reporting requirements. The new features are intended to help meet regulatory compliance, with click-of-a-button reporting. We are improving visibility on distributed environments, through site, room, and rack view of equipment. By bringing digital twin capabilities to the ‘Edge’ and simplifying implementation to larger sites, we are helping to accelerate the benefits to end-users. In short, we want to bring best-in-class capabilities to the masses. 

All of these enhancements will help our customers have a more resilient, secure and sustainable infrastructure.

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