The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable features insights from industry executives with lengthy experience in the data center industry. Here’s a look at the insights from Steve Hassell from Emerson Network Power.
Steve Hassell served as CIO of Emerson before assuming the role of President of Emerson Network Power’s Data Center Solutions business in North America. Steve oversees development, manufacturing, sales and service of the business’ portfolio of power, thermal management, software and converged solutions, which provide the critical infrastructure that enables data centers to deliver uninterrupted service, respond to change and reduce operating costs.
Here’s the full text of Steve Hassell’s insights from our Executive Roundtable for the second quarter of 2016:
Data Center Frontier: In the first half of 2016 we’ve seen unusually strong demand for wholesale data center space from cloud builders and Internet enterprises. Is this a short-term phenomenon, or is cloud growth fueling a long-term shift toward larger requirements?
Steve Hassell: This shift toward larger requirements has been occurring for the last several years and we expect it to continue. When you analyze the evolution of the data center, you can trace the emergence of the current “cloud” generation back to about 2011. That’s when we saw the shift from a focus on availability, cooling and flexibility, which predominated in the client/server generation, to the current focus on capacity, modularity, efficiency and integration, which mark the cloud generation.
IT is experiencing rapid growth from a wide variety of applications, ranging from big data to social media to mobile to IoT. These trends are pushing IT assets into new locations, driving network expansion, and simultaneously fueling the expansion to cloud through public, private, and hybrid models. Currently, demand is outpacing supply, forcing organizations to grab IT space wherever they can find it within the confines of the application’s latency limits. Cloud providers are moving quickly to close this gap through new development; however, the trends driving demand are still in their early phases and should fuel further growth.
Data Center Frontier: A growing number of data center providers are embracing renewable energy. Is it becoming easier to procure renewables at a scale and price that makes sense for data centers? Which approaches hold the most promise?
Steve Hassell: The scale of the industry is helping to advance the availability of renewables. The data center industry is likely the single largest non-government mandated driver for new renewable energy coming on line. I can’t think of another industry that demands a very high percentage of renewable energy on the local grid when selecting a site for their next large deployment. Utilities that can meet this demand have an advantage in attracting new development.
There are several factors contributing to this push to source and/or deploy renewable energy. These include the social and boardroom impact of environmental activism, shareholder proxy battles for corporate action and reporting on CO2 and related causes, and the increasing importance of corporate sustainability reporting. In addition, renewables often make good business sense through the improved cost models of many renewables; long-term purchasing agreements with known, future-proof energy pricing; and the perception of greater reliability compared to the traditional grid.
We expect to see this trend continue to grow with some of the larger data center operators becoming local utilities or functioning as grid-connect assets for grid stability, energy storage, and energy services.
Data Center Frontier: In recent years, the data center industry has made solid progress on energy efficiency. What are the most promising opportunities and strategies for continued improvement?
Steve Hassell: The Green Grid provided a valuable service to the industry in developing and promoting the PUE metric that has led to increased adoption of energy-saving technologies such as economization, intelligent thermal management and power monitoring. However, PUE has always been somewhat limited in that it doesn’t address the efficiency of IT resources.
The focus is now shifting to IT asset productivity, particularly for organizations that have adopted the public/private hybrid cloud model where costs are more closely scrutinized. The average utilization rates for IT assets outside of a cloud environment remain in the 8 to 12 percent range, which is alarmingly low by any objective measure. New cloud models will enable organizations to deploy these underutilized assets internally to increase utilization and efficiency, while also potentially creating opportunities to deploy unused assets externally to generate revenue.
A related issue is zombie or comatose servers, which consume energy to no purpose. There’s a huge opportunity to increase IT efficiency by identifying and eliminating zombie servers and DCIM is emerging as the zombie server killer. Using DCIM to execute a rules- and policy-based zombie elimination program is a fairly simple task and well worth the investment of time and resources.
Data Center Frontier: New technologies like the Internet of Things, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are generating excitement in the technology world. What are the implications of these new technologies for the data center sector?
Steve Hassell: There has been a lot written about the potential impact of IoT on the data center, but not a lot about the impact of the data center industry on IoT. The data center is probably the most complex and data-rich IoT environment in any organization. By taking an IoT approach to data center management, the industry can establish best practices and pioneer technologies that can simplify IoT adoption across the rest of the organization.
One example is Redfish, an open, lightweight, easily maintainable a specification developed for out-of-band server management. Initial reception to Redfish has been positive and the specification is already being considered for data center systems beyond servers. Ultimately, it could prove valuable in IoT applications outside the data center.
Data center professionals should consider a proactive approach to IoT in which they take a leadership position within their organization, helping to define technologies and architectures, rather than simply reacting to the demands of IoT as they emerge.