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6 trends shaping the data center landscape in 2017

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

“A globally connected, always on, mobile and social world is rapidly transforming how consumers and businesses interact and transact. Hyperscale platforms and the explosion in critical applications shaping tomorrow’s digital economy are redefining ITC infrastructure,” said Anand Sanghi, president, Asia, Vertiv. “For 2017, we are seeing increased focus on efficiency, sustainability and data security in the architecture of data centers and the underlying power, cooling and DCIM technologies deployed in these data centers all the way from the cloud to the edge.”

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

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 center remains core to delivering applications and services, such as point of sale and inventory management, network closets and micro data centers 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, organizations will turn to pre-configured micro data center solutions that support fast deployment, greater standardization and remote management across distributed IT locations. Standardization and modularity are becoming as important in distributed IT locations as they are in large data centers.

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 localized collection and analysis of real-time data from connected sensors and devices.

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Thermal management expands to sustainability

Data center cooling has changed more in the last five years than any other data center system. Fueled 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 economizer 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 center operators are tailoring thermal management based on data center 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 economizers that use no water and introduce no outside air into the data center will save over 1 billion gallons of water in North America in 2016.

Security responsibilities extend to data center management

While data breaches continue to garner the majority of security-related headlines, security has become a data center 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 center outages studied.

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As more devices get connected to enable simpler management and eventual automation, threat vectors also increase. Data center 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.

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 center ecosystem. Forward-thinking operators are using DCIM to address data center challenges, such as regulatory compliance, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and managing hybrid environments. Finally, colocation providers are finding DCIM a valuable tool in analyzing 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 center, delivering the visibility, increased coordination across systems and support for automation that are at the core of the IIoT value proposition.

Alternatives to lead-acid batteries become viable

New solutions are emerging to the weak link in data center 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 center 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 commercialization efforts in the data center industry.

Data center 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.

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Data center design and deployment become more integrated

Technology integration has been increasing in the data center 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 center development. Speed-to-market is one of the key drivers of the companies developing the bulk of data center 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 center 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 centers faster.

“Organizations, regardless of industry and size, must continue to evolve their critical infrastructure to deliver exceptional services to their customers.  With new trends emerging within the IT space, it is vital for organizations to continue to reevaluate their IT and business strategies and choose a right partner that can provide them with the speed, efficiency and agility they require for business growth,” said Sanghi.

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