Future of Data Centers Podcast Recap Episode 2: Lights Out Data Centers

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Are fully automated lights-out data centers living up to the hype?

With hundreds of downloads since its recent launch, The Future of Data Centers: A Mini-Podcast Series From the Viewpoint of Server Farmers and Data Growers is quickly gaining notoriety as the industry’s go-to podcast.

The first sustainability-focused series is attracting listeners from all over the globe, as host Joel Makower – Co-founder, Chairman, and Executive Editor of GreenBiz takes a deep dive into one of the most critical topics of our lifetime – data center sustainability.

If you lent us your ears for the first episode, New Construction vs. Modernization, then you’ve already learned quite a bit about why building a data center should be the last resort. But what about lights-out data centers? There’s been a lot of talk about every data center going lights-out in the future – but do they hold the key to data center sustainability?

The second episode of this podcast answers these questions and more as we journey into the emerging lights-out concept. Serverfarm’s Arun Shenoy, SVP of Sales of Marketing, and Sam Brown, VP of Engineering/Construction, along with tech reporter, Ambrose McNevin shine a light on this topic during this must-listen episode.

Ready to learn more about lights-out data centers? Click here to listen to the second episode now, or keep reading for more highlights.

What is a Lights-Out Data Center?

The term lights-out data center has been around for some time now, dating back to AOL days. In fact, AOL is credited as the pioneer of the lights-out concept, but recently the term has been emerging globally.

Shenoy takes a unique approach to defining the lights-out concept by bringing listeners back to why lights even exist within a data center. He points out that historically, data centers are very heavily staffed environments, primarily because organizations and individuals need visibility. The infrastructure was so limited back then that the only way they could ensure things were adequately working was to go in and look.

In addition, Shenoy points out that lights are everywhere within a data center. They can be found in rooms, servers, storage arrays and network ports. And the only reason they exist is so someone could look into them.

This insightful analogy led us to Shenoy’s definition of a lights-out data center:

“Lights-out — as it correctly does — implies that there are no people in the data center. That further implies that the data center is somehow autonomous. Its systems work without too much human intervention presenting information to people remotely, so people no longer need to be inside the data center because they have enough confidence in everything running as it should. Clearly, I am talking about the future because we are quite some time from that.”

Arun Shenoy

Is the Industry Prepared to Hit the Lights?

While the data center industry may be decades away from exclusively leveraging a true lights-out concept, facilitating this journey will require processes. So how can IT ramp up and reconfigure infrastructure under current circumstances, especially in critical sectors? Are there data center management services that would support this?

In response to some of these questions, Brown points out that Serverfarm is seeing more customers who want to take control of their infrastructure and gain maximum visibility into their power, cooling and capacity.

“We use a platform called InCommand to drive some serious data analytics as far as availability and capacity.”

Sam Brown

The discussion goes on to convey how InCommand, a cloud-based platform powering Serverfarm’s DMaaS (Data Center Management as a Service) solution, brings people and processes together to manage mission-critical data center assets. This service maximizes capacity utilization, server asset life cycles, cable management and more, giving enterprises control over their IT and facilities infrastructure while significantly contributing to their sustainability objectives. To learn more, check out our three-part InCommand blog series here.

AI, ML, Robotics and the Next-Gen Data Center

McNevin helps define the role modern technologies will play in lights-out data centers by giving listeners the definition of a next-generation data center from IBM, the world’s leading AI company. He also hones in on how data centers’ physical aspects and operations will need to be transformed and programmed to serve enterprises better.

From a Serverfarm perspective, McNevin notes that virtualized infrastructure operations require programming in all of its resources so that they can be run in the right place at the right time to meet efficiency, cost and sustainability objectives. Today, it’s not just moving things around from one server to another inside the data center; it’s moving from one entire data center to another.

“AI and automation will play an increasing part [in next-gen data centers], but you don’t need AI to start delivering now.”

Ambrose McNevin

In a recent impactful Forbes article, Shenoy shares his insight into AI and data centers with industry journalist David Teich. If you’re looking for an expert viewpoint on this topic, check out the piece, Artificial Intelligence In The Datacenter Means Power And Physical Structural Issues Must Be Addressed, here.

Lights-Out, Edge and Sustainability

It’s no secret that power is the largest cost to the user of a data center. But will the lights-out data centers contribute significantly to an organization’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact? Is there a strong connection between the lights-out concept and edge data centers that are being driven by the demand for low latency?

While the industry still seeks a well-defined definition of edge, the conversation takes a controversial twist as each guest points out the pros and cons of edge data centers, the lights-out concept and their impact on mitigating operational carbon. However, one thing that was agreed upon is how remote management will ultimately enable maximum utilization, reduced travel by facility teams and less maintenance.

“From a sustainability perspective, it should be argued that if an organization that owns and deploys edge infrastructure did a good job of designing the architecture, then the lifecycle and therefore the complexity of the mechanical equation and the IT equation are perfectly matched.”

Arun Shenoy

Get to Know a Server Farmer

Every Future of Data Centers episode gives listeners a flashback into Arun Shenoy’s and Sam Brown’s own data center journey. In this episode, Makower takes a trip down memory lane with Shenoy and Brown to explore their first stint within a data center. In addition, they give a special shout-out to those who have inspired them and helped shape their successful careers.

With so much at stake for one of the most vital industries of our lifetime, this second episode of the Future of Data Centers is not-to-be-missed.

Ready to blast off into the future to explore if lights-out data centers are living up to the hype? To download this impactful podcast episode, click here. Rather watch than listen? Click here to view the episode on our YouTube channel.

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