Vertiv identifies data centre infrastructure trends for 2017

Vertiv, formerly Emerson Network Power, has released six data centre infrastructure trends to watch in 2017. This year’s trends follow the 2016 data centre trends previously published by Emerson Network Power.

“In 2016, global macro trends significantly impacted the industry, with new cloud innovations and social responsibility taking the spotlight,” said Giordano Albertazzi, president, Europe, Middle East and Africa for Vertiv. “As cloud computing has integrated even further into IT operations, the focus will move to improving underlying critical infrastructure as businesses look to manage new data volumes. We believe that 2017 will be the year that IT professionals will invest in future-proofing their data centre facilities to ensure that they remain nimble and flexible in the years to come."

Below are six infrastructure trends shaping the data centre ecosystem in 2017:

1. Infrastructure races to keep up with connectivity at the edge
Distributed IT and the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are pushing IT resources closer to users and industrial processes. While the data centre remains core to delivering applications and services, such as point of sale and inventory management, network closets and micro data centres are growing in number and importance as internet-connected sensors and devices proliferate and remote users demand faster access to information. Responding to these changes, organisations will turn to pre-configured micro data centre solutions that support fast deployment, greater standardisation and remote management across distributed IT locations. Standardisation and modularity are becoming as important in distributed IT locations as they are in large data centres.

Existing network closets and remote IT locations will also be re-evaluated to ensure the power and cooling provisions are adequate to meet the increased criticality of these locations as they begin to provide localised collection and analysis of real-time data from connected sensors and devices.

2. Thermal management expands to sustainability
Data centre cooling has changed more in the last five years than any other data centre system. Fuelled by the desire to drive down energy costs, traditional approaches that focused on delivering “maximum cooling” have been displaced by more sophisticated approaches focused on removing heat as efficiently as possible. Increased use of advanced economiser technologies and the continued evolution of intelligent thermal controls have enabled highly resilient thermal management strategies that support PUEs below 1.2.

Now, while energy efficiency remains a core concern, water consumption and refrigerant use have emerged as important considerations in select geographies. Thanks to the expanded range of thermal management strategies available today, data centre operators are tailoring thermal management based on data centre location and resource availability. Global market trends show an increase in the use of new technologies leveraging evaporative and adiabatic cooling that use water to cool the surrounding air. These technologies are delivering highly efficient, reliable and economical thermal management.

Where water availability or costs are an issue, waterless cooling systems have gained traction. A traditional open-loop chilled water-based system uses about 4 million gallons of water to cool 1 MW of IT capacity in one year. New technologies featuring pumped-refrigerant economisers that use no water and introduce no outside air into the data centre will save over 1 billion gallons of water in North America in 2016.

3. Security responsibilities extend to data centre management
While data breaches continue to garner the majority of security-related headlines, security has become a data centre availability issue as well. The 2016 Ponemon Institute Cost of Data Center Outages study revealed that cyber attacks accounted for 22 percent of the data centre outages studied.

As more devices get connected to enable simpler management and eventual automation, threat vectors also increase. Data centre professionals are adding security to their growing list of priorities and beginning to seek solutions that help them identify vulnerabilities and improve response to attacks. Management gateways that consolidate data from multiple devices to support DCIM are emerging as a potential solution. With some modifications, they can identify unsecured ports across the critical infrastructure and provide early warning of denial of service attacks.

4. DCIM proves its value
DCIM is continuing to expand its value, both in the issues it can address and its ability to manage the increasingly complex data centre ecosystem. Forward-thinking operators are using DCIM to address data centre challenges, such as regulatory compliance, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and managing hybrid environments. Finally, colocation providers are finding DCIM a valuable tool in analysing their costs by customer and in providing their customers with remote visibility into their assets.

DCIM has emerged as the precursor to IIoT in the data centre, delivering the visibility, increased coordination across systems and support for automation that are at the core of the IIoT value proposition.

5. Alternatives to lead-acid batteries become viable
New solutions are emerging to the weak link in data centre power systems as operators seek to reduce the footprint, weight and total costs of traditional valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries. The most promising of these is lithium-ion batteries. With prices decreasing and chemistries and construction continuing to advance, lithium-ion batteries are becoming a viable option for the data centre and are being scaled to handle row- and room-level requirements. While this battery technology has been available previously, the improving economics have spurred increased commercialisation efforts in the data centre industry.

Data centre operators have long been interested in alternatives to lead-acid batteries, but available technologies have not been able to match the value and storage capacity of traditional batteries. Now, real alternatives are emerging that can reduce footprint, expand runtimes and enhance sustainability.

6. Data centre design and deployment become more integrated
Technology integration has been increasing in the data centre space for the last several years as operators seek modular, integrated solutions that can be deployed quickly, scaled easily and operated efficiently. Now, this same philosophy is being applied to data centre development. Speed-to-market is one of the key drivers of the companies developing the bulk of data centre capacity today, and they’ve found the traditional silos between the engineering and construction phases cumbersome and unproductive. As a result, they are embracing a turnkey approach to data centre design and deployment that leverages integrated, modular designs, off-site construction and disciplined project management. Vendors that bring together infrastructure expertise, design and engineering capabilities and sophisticated project management to deliver a turnkey capability can build better data centres faster. 

“For businesses looking to stay competitive and seamlessly transition to new, cloud based technologies, the strength of their IT infrastructure continues to be the cornerstone of success,” said Albertazzi. “With data volumes rapidly rising, IT infrastructures will continue to evolve throughout 2017 to offer faster, more secure and more efficient services needed to meet these new demands. Investment in the right infrastructure – not just a new infrastructure – is essential. It’s therefore vital that a partner with a strong history of data centre operations is involved throughout the system upgrade – from planning and design, to project management and ongoing maintenance and optimisation.”