The challenging future of the data center in an IoT landscape

Disclosure: This post was previously published on Atos Ascent Blog Post and was co-authored by Mr. Andrea Sorrentino (LinkedIn) – minor format and content edits have been applied to fit it to this website.

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” This phrase of Machiavelli Wikipedia perfectly aligns with how we should consider the Internet of Things (IoT) – the need to change our mindset regarding the IT industry and how we use data. Better analytics are now creating an amount of information which has never been obtained before; providing important insights into markets and consumers. The IoT can further enhance the business value extrapolated from data, and we find ourselves in the early phase of development of this new technology that will shape our vision of the world.

Now, imagine a company that distributes millions of sensors along its production chain in several factories, all sending data about machinery to a central location. On one hand, managers will have access to a large amount of data which can effectively contribute to help correct inefficiencies, and to create business value. McKinsey estimate that if policy makers and businesses get it right, linking the physical and digital worlds could generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value by 2025. On the other hand, the data center involved would probably very quickly reach its processing capacity, as it would be overloaded with data and connections that are being pushed from the sensors. According to Gartner, it would not be technically and economically feasible to maintain every computing activity in a central location with the IoT.

The impact of the IoT

The IoT will have a huge influence on companies’ data center strategies, and the best option is likely to be creating a distributed data center infrastructure, installing smaller facilities close to the devices for local processing, with further aggregation in a central location. This creates a more flexible management system which can be adapted to changing requirements. The old logic of using a centralized data center to reduce costs and increase security is simply not compatible in the IoT era. However, any strategy is dependent on the smartness of the devices being used to filter data and avoid overloading the entire system to prevent inefficiencies.

The adoption of the IoT will likely lead to a profound reassessment of data management strategies within businesses, and aspects such as costs and the integration of new technology are hot topics for managers today. The IoT represents a great opportunity for creating smarter companies that are more responsive to market needs. It enhances capabilities that, decades ago, managers could barely imagine: real time analytics that allow for preemptive intervention to avoid potential errors.

Therefore, implementing IoT solutions is important to be able to create a tailored data management strategy, re-considering the role of the data center for a business. The IoT will likely speed up the transitional process to cloud-oriented infrastructure; companies in different sectors are already gradually running a larger part of their processes on hybrid cloud solutions. The cloud is an enabler of digital transformation which can enhance the potential of the entire infrastructure, and support in delivering better services.

A future for the traditional data center?

The advancement of IoT and cloud computing may lead to the reduction in the use of data centers by businesses, simply due to the potential level of scalability and flexibility that companies may need to attain. Clearly, security cannot be underestimated and companies need to maintain a robust infrastructure around their data. It is likely that data centers will gradually lose strategic importance for most businesses, however physical locations will still be needed as safe stations of reference in case of system failures.

IT managers need to begin thinking about the best approach to optimize and innovate their infrastructure, ensuring it doesn’t become quickly outdated in a fast moving environment, enabled by the IoT.


Data-centers may be too hot to handle

[This blog post is a repost of ]

Global warming is certainly a topic that the IT industry should care about, especially if you consider the way we contribute to the rising CO2 levels and power consumption. Good news, though; apparently we do already care about it.After his earlier report in 2008, on August 1st, 2011, a follow up report was presented by Jonathan Koomey, a consulting professor at Stanford University.

In his latest report , Koomey states:

“In summary, the rapid rates of growth in data-center electricity use that prevailed from 2000 to 2005 slowed significantly from 2005 to 2010, yielding total electricity use by data-centers in 2010 of about 1.3% of all electricity use for the world, and 2% of all electricity use for the US.”

Still, that is a lot of power and since we can expect a growth in the amount of data-center space, we need to spend considerable time thinking about further lowering the CO2 footprint of data-centers. A white-paper by the Atos Scientific Community, takes an interesting view to the subject. The authors claim that the two worlds of data-centers and of 'Control and Command' have lived up to now in relatively separate spaces, although:

“… the data-center can be seen as an industrial equipment with processes like electricity management, temperature control, humidity control, physical security, and finally the management of IT equipment themselves…”

After a short description of technology that is deployed in data-centers, it is concluded that:

“…computers kept in the room are not the dumb heaters that the physics rules would describe. They have their own operational rules and constraints, acting at a logical level rather than a physical one, and providing software solutions to manage that logical level. A communication channel between the computers or blades and the Control and Command could be mutually beneficial.”

This introduces a new way to look at datacenters, using end-to-end monitoring to manage the facility as a whole, not as a collection of separate components. The fact that all components interact and should be managed as such opens new ways to bring power consumption under control. A better future is possible, but a lot of work still needs to be done.

The Atos whitepaper can be downloaded here.

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