Monday, 20th January 2020

Democratizing Data

ABB’s Dave Sterlace examines the case for digitalization by exploring how the IT sector can benefit from greater automation and take cues from other industries to enhance business efficiency and help navigate the data highway.

With over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day, across 30 billion+ connected devices* we are living in a world driven by data. Not since the design and development of the diesel combustion engine has the world seen so much unprecedented growth, acceleration and transformation.

And now rather than automobiles, our data centers are at the main juncture of every data highway, within every enterprise.

They stand on the front line of the digital revolution transferring and driving these data packages from one device to another, as the bulk of the world’s digitalized information flows through these sprawling installations.

Today, 100MW facilities are the norm for top-tier data centers, and the outlook going forward is for even more. IDC projects that “mega-data centers” will account for 70% of construction in the sector while colocation facility growth is expected to surpass USD 90 billion by 2024.**

The global rollout of 5G, the next generation mobile protocol, will put the growth of digital data into overdrive with firms such as Cisco predicting that we will soon enter the “mobile zettabyte era”.

Data center operators and managers hold the key to helping their businesses and corporations become more efficient by using the data they hold, process and manage to make better informed decisions.

But how should businesses use their data centers to shape growth and how can data center operators breakdown the vast amount of data for the greater good?

Data Centers – the Incubator of Growth

Undoubtedly, we are connecting more devices than ever before at enterprise level – and those devices are providing more data – the data helps us identify how we can improve, while the software and digital automation tools also gives us flexibility – to control, scale, automate, model, simulate, as well as analyze disparate systems.

Data centers present an ideal incubator for IoT exploration to help enterprise systems harness and understand how hardware and operational resources are being utilized through digitalization and automation platforms.

** (https://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/internet-of-things-iot-data-continues-to-explode-exponentially-who-is-using-that-data-and-how)

**https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/data-center-colocation-market-share-growth-statistics-by-application-production-revenue-forecast-to-2024-2019-02-26

Within our sector there are three key trends which are driving demand for a data center digital infrastructure:

·The first is fleet management and the need to manage many data centers across several geographic borders within different time zones and territories.Traditional data center environments and operators are under constant pressure, as demand grows for greater flexibility, security and visibility.

As traditional analogue electrical systems come under increasing strain, together with the growth of robotics and greater integration of AI (Artificial Intelligence), complexities for IT managers and consultants becomes ever more intricate.

·The second is speed. We all know that time is money so, the need to fast track more projects quickly becomes ever more critical.

·And finally, the demand for greater efficiency at a fiscal, operational and personnel level.

Ericsson, one of the world’s largest telecommunications network equipment suppliers, chose ABB to orchestrate its Global Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Center in Rosersberg, Sweden.

Spanning 20,000 square meters, the Global ICT Center is of critical importance to Ericsson, enabling its engineers around the world, 24-7, to use the facility remotely to test products and services, before releasing them to clients, using digitalization and automation tools.

ABB’s technology enabled Ericsson to automate and control operations not only across hardware and software systems, but also across power, cooling and energy management systems.

Through this digital central nervous system of data center automation, all three of the centers’ control systems – the Building Management System (BMS), smart Power Management System (PMS) with automated functions and Energy Management System (EMS) – are handled through a single point of control. As such, the Global ICT Center has been able to achieve energy savings, while reducing operational and capital spending.

Digital communication and peer-to-peer control reduces the need for multiple, linear control layers, from circuit breakers through to the switchgear and Building Management Systems (BMS) towards the Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) modules, moving up the hierarchy.

Digitalization eases pressure on the hierarchy. It provides north to south, east to west directional controls and communications between peer-to-peer components.

This peer-to-peer architecture of digital systems provides data center managers and operators access to best practice benchmarking and deeper, granular visibility of cross-industry data.

With better insight into disparate systems, these scalable systems, along with features such as advanced power analytics and intelligent alarm and event handling, deliver greater operational transparency at both device and enterprise level. Potential issues are identified and resolved before they can cause significant damage or downtime.

Leveraging industrial experience is an opportunity

Based on my years of experience, one the of the key observations is that we, as an industry, are conservative when it comes to integrating new platforms and applications.

But data center operators can and should look to other sectors and borrow digital operation best practices. Sectors including manufacturing, oil and gas, utilities, along with many other industries have all faced similar efficiency challenges and already optimize through digital components and infrastructures.

At the hyperscale level, data centers are now just too complicated and vast to simply use hard wired systems, therefore digital provides greater control.

Digital native components such as circuit breakers in switchgear and digital sensors inside of transformers within the utility sector have been easily and readily made available to integrate into systems over time. Data centers can benefit from these and take these proven technologies into mission critical or process based applications.

Digitalization platforms for on-premise and hybrid cloud environments provide the possibility of converging both IT and OT through a ‘single pane of glass’.

In these systems, digitalization has reduced the number of wires by up to 90 percent, provided 30 percent faster delivery and reduced space requirements by 30 percent as the number of cabinets are reduced through robust IEC 61850 digital communications. We’ve seen data center clients achieve up to 25 percent savings in installation and commissioning costs, while experiencing improved resilience and savings in energy and CO2 emissions.

At one of America’s leading car manufacturers, based in Texas, the fully automated manufacturing plant will have over 10,000 alarms per day. The adoption of automated digital platforms such as ABB Ability™ has enabled data center teams at the plant to prioritize and turn data into actionable insight through peer-to-peer communication. The system is self-regulating and can even be self-mending, significantly reducing the number of alarms for operators to manage and thereby freeing up teams to focus on other mission critical business areas. When there is something the system cannot fix itself, instead of telling the operator there is a problem, it tells the operator how to fix the problem.

Digitalization will transform how we operate our digital enterprises.Connectivity and integration, collaboration and control, analytics and closed loops with actions based on knowledge borne out of collected data sources are drivers for the fourth industrial revolution and enablers for new business models resulting in cost savings, increased safety and higher efficiency.

By Darren Watkins, managing director for VIRTUS Data Centres.
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