Pandemic Prompts New Urgency for AI, Software Automation in Data Centers
The COVID-19 pandemic will drive innovation in data center operations, forcing companies to embrace automation to manage some duties that currently rely on close human interaction. Software and robotics will play larger roles in aspects of operations, and contactless, “lights out” strategies will gain new urgency in maintaining existing mission-critical facilities and building new ones.
Today we begin a series of stories examining innovation amid the pandemic. Perhaps the most prominent development will be increased adoption of software-powered automation and artificial intelligence to remotely manage data centers.
Data centers have always been highly-automated environments. The growing use of environmental sensors in racks and servers has enabled companies to use software to track and control many aspects of data centers. This movement has expended beyond the initial wave of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software to embrace broader platforms that integrate automation and AI.
“If ever there was a time for data center owner-operators and their customers to embrace automation and remote management and monitoring of their infrastructure, that time is now,” said Phillip Marangella of EdgeConneX.
Protecting Essential Operations and Workers
Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit the US in late February, major data center operators have been limiting access to their facilities, which house servers and network equipment that power many of the world’s leading social media, video platforms, and cloud computing services. Data centers also play a key behind-the-scenes role, providing mission-critical technology to support emergency communication for public agencies, emergency services, hospitals and 911 systems.
A Coronavirus outbreak inside a data center could, over time, create serious challenges in maintaining customer uptime. The first line of response has been access control, with data centers allowing some employees to work remotely and limit site visits by vendors.
In March, Equinix said the growing outbreaks in some countries required it to lock down facilities, with only Equinix staff allowed inside and providing “remote hands” support for customers who can no longer access their equipment.
Software has provided the next level of pandemic-driven enablement. Access restrictions have prompted many customers to take advantage of management software offerings from their data center provider, many of which offer remote management options.
“Keeping our critical data centers running while ensuring employee, partner and customer safety is a front-and-center concern across the industry,” noted Alexis Romero of Serverfarm, which offers a cloud-based management portal called InCommand. “If the current crisis had hit even five years ago, enterprise IT could be facing serious downtime issues. Automated data center management has contributed massively to the smooth running of IT at a time of huge disruption.”