Lights Out: Why Your Next Data Center May Be Hands-Free

Jake Levins October 28, 2020 7 No Comments

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Could we’re entering an age of hands-free data centres, where distant software and robotics manage jobs that till now have dropped to individual technicians? That potential might not be as far away as you think, according to a current InformationWeek article by John Edwards that investigates the drive to produce data centres autonomous. As Edwards reports, the COVID-19 pandemic has helped force the problem, together with information centers globally working at sharply reduced headcount.

GigaOm Analyst Ned Bellavance was mentioned in the report. He urged IT managers to set the proper basis for an automation effort, cautioning that present data center deployments could be hard to transition into complete hands-free performance. He emphasized a standardized environment is crucial to achieving victory.

As an instance in point, Bellavance singles out Microsoft’s Project Natick, an attempt to come up with enclosed data centers which may be set up in coastal waters across the seafloor. Microsoft at 2018 set up a 240kW data centre using 12 stands and 864 servers from the shore of Scotland as a part of its Phase 2 testing. As Bellavance quips:

“If you wish to learn what [a] authentic lights-out [data center] resembles, check out Project Natick from Microsoft. It’s fairly difficult to send a technician undersea.”

Lights Out Why Your Next Data Center May Be Hands Free - <p>Lights Out: Why Your Next Data Center May Be Hands-Free

Figure 1: Microsoft techs slip a stand of data center servers and servers to an undersea container for installation to the seafloor off the shore of Scotland. (Photo by Frank Betermin)

Ambitious projects apart, Bellavance cautioned that attaining a hands-free, lights-out data centre is no small endeavor.

“The fact is, it is incredibly hard to put all the necessary pieces together for a truly lights-out data center. You are looking at a lot of disparate systems that may have their own proprietary format and protocol,” he states.

The great news? Bellavance claims progress has been made to establish standards that were useful, for example Redfish to get out-of-band control of servers, networking, and power management. These attempts are particularly important, he explains, since one tool is not likely to handle each part of the information centre.

“For that reason, I would look for management software that does a great job in a specific area and has API hooks for an orchestration layer to grab onto,” Bellavance says.

So how do IT businesses prepare themselves to get a daring future filled with flying cars and self-driving information centres? Bellavance, that has authored recent GigaOm reports about border infrastructure and advantage colocation, provides a Couple of words of advice:

  • Pick a side: Either standardize on a single vendor and stage, Bellavance states, or adopt an open standard for direction.
  • Get proficient: Hone your automation and orchestration skills, particularly around working with RESTful APIs.
  • Start little: Begin automating common tasks today and attempt to seek out ways that you can eliminate trips to the datacenter.
  • Keep count: Make a listing of common hands-on activities and prioritize them by frequency and sophistication.
  • Get redundant: Invest in hardware using a high amount of redundancy and a very low mean time to failure.
  • Fail Gradually: Accept that failures will occur and intend to manage them at a hands-off style through appropriate design and structure.
  • Consider AI: AIOps tools (see GigaOm Radar report) guarantee intelligent anomaly detection as well as automated reaction. It’s worth keeping a watch on those tools, Bellavance states, but you should be skeptical of excellent claims.

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