IoT for Data Centers

Why Data Centers Need The IoT

For data centers around the world, increasing efficiency, lowering costs, and providing continuous service are three of the most important markers of a successful operation.  Meeting, and exceeding, these goals can be a constant area of process improvement for data center providers.  However, finding areas to cut costs and increase efficiency, while still providing consistent and continuous service can be difficult.  In this article, we’ll discuss what makes an Internet of Things (IoT) management solution different than other alternatives on the market for corporate data management.  We’ll also look at specifically how an IoT management solution, when applied to power management, can be used to trim costs across data center operations.  By utilizing IoT management systems to collect and analyze data, and then using that data to enact targeted power management changes, data centers will be able to immediately see areas for improving efficiency throughout their operations.  Through the combination of large scale data generated by an IoT system with machine-driven analytics to create actionable insights, IoT management systems result in smarter energy usage while increasing data center stability.

What makes an IoT solution different?

1. Full Coverage Monitoring System

Applying IoT technology to your data center operations brings several important benefits that other solutions simply cannot compete with. First, an IoT system provides continuous, full coverage monitoring of every aspect of a data center. IoT systems can be configured to monitor and stream a variety of data, including data points that are important to data center stability and function. These include crucial metrics like temperature, humidity, power draw and usage. This data can be streamed from individual sensors placed throughout a data center, giving a full-field view of the entire system. For data center servers and storage, these specific data points equate to the overall health of data center operations.

Besides tracking the critical indicators of potential failure within a data center, an Internet of Things management solution is also able to track other, less critical infrastructure such as whether lights have been left on or whether doors have been left open. Sensors tracking this information can provide a useful starting point towards increasing efficiency, reducing power consumption, and lowering the costs of operations.

IoT management systems are efficient, flexible, and effective. IoT-based systems can be expanded or contracted with the needs of an organization, allowing them to add sensors to equipment, rooms, or different buildings as necessary and easily incorporate their data streams into a single data monitoring dashboard. An IoT-based system also can track any number of discrete points of data simultaneously, eliminating the need to juggle between windows or software to monitor different aspects of a data center. Lastly, IoT-based systems stream data in real-time, giving a comprehensive and accurate view of an operation’s health at any given moment.

2. Data Collection and Analytics Platform

The second critical function an Internet of Things management solution performs is as a data collection and analytics platform. For data center analysis, an IoT system provides the most cost effective and efficient means of accessing “big data.” IoT systems collect huge amounts of data compared to other monitoring software systems. As the data is collected it is streamed in real-time to cloud-based analytics software, where it is then assessed and sent to a data dashboard.

However, an IoT-based system doesn’t stop there. Data is also stored, providing the ability to dive deeper into specific data sets to view more detailed information. This gives data center management the ability to pull up specific and full coverage information on the exact data they need, while providing an opportunity to conduct analysis on the data to determine trends over the long term.

In addition to data collection and storage, an Internet of Things management solution is fundamentally different from other management solutions since it is built around a strong analytics core. As data streams into cloud-based software and is sent to your data dashboard, it is also analyzed and searched for anomalies or indications of future problems. Analytics software functions by parsing through the massive amounts of data streamed from an IoT network and looking for connections or indicators that may illuminate otherwise unseen issues. These can include missed opportunities for efficiency improvement, or reduced power consumption. Once trained through machine learning, analytics software can use data to preemptively determine a potential problem that may be days or even weeks away. Equipment that is prone to failure can demonstrate certain behaviors that may or may not be noticeable to staff on the ground. Even small deviations that indicate a potential larger problem can be picked up through software analysis and then acted upon. Analytics can create connections between different points of data, or highlight correlations that may have been missed for years, that indicate areas for process improvement or equipment overhaul.

Properly using big data as an avenue to drive change and improvement requires using robust analytics software. Without analytics, big data is simply an overwhelming amount of data provided by a multitude of discrete sensors. In a corporate data management environment, drawing connections between these points of data to highlight potential problems can take staff weeks or even months, and even then, the most salient and crucial lessons that can be drawn from that data may be missed.  With analytics software, big data transforms from a liability to an asset. This is particularly true in industrial applications such as data centers or power plants, where the amount of data being collected and stored dwarfs commercial applications. Within an industrial landscape, rendering the sheer amount of data being collected usable without relying on analytics software becomes impossible. Due to this, crucial opportunities to avoid negative outcomes can be missed altogether.

Taken together, these two aspects of IoT management solutions for data centers – comprehensive data monitoring and collection, and analytics designed to render that data into actionable insights – change an IoT system into a revolutionary data center monitoring solution. For corporate data management, an IoT system is necessary to facilitate any significant impact on operating costs and efficiency.   Through predictive analytics, an IoT management system gives data center managers the ability to recognize problems before they arise, and proactively rather than reactively address them.

Data Center

How does IoT combine with power management to boost efficiency?

An IoT management system works simultaneously as a data collection and monitoring system and power management apparatus to create unprecedented avenues of cost savings and efficiency. On the one hand, you have an IoT system that monitors your operations, streams data to your cloud analytics, and then analyzes and renders that data into a usable format in real-time. This solution on its own will generate insights into how operations can be adjusted to boost efficiency. This is particularly true in data centers, where the largest operating cost is energy usage.  As more areas of potential improvement are discovered and displayed through your analytics software, the cost savings generated through small changes are compounded.

As a power management system, your IoT network functions through integration between your equipment, the data it collects, and the analytics it relies on.  Once fully integrated into your equipment control systems, your IoT network can proactively adjust equipment usage to meet demand, or scale back usage during non-peak hours.  In industrial applications, IoT monitoring and management systems can make hundreds of minute adjustments simultaneously across a system to match demand while still maintaining efficiency.

On-Site Power Plant Solutions

To maximize the cost savings, efficiency, and stability of corporate data management, many data centers are now transitioning towards in-house power plant solutions. Grid power can be expensive, particularly at the usage levels that data centers experience regularly. Once combined with an IoT management system, on-site power plants result in compounded savings and efficiency. By placing sensor nodes throughout a power plant, monitoring systems can highlight critical issues such as if the power draw is greater than power production. Integration of an IoT monitoring system into both a power plant and data center allows these two entities to work together seamlessly. Power creation and consumption patterns can be more closely aligned, thereby eliminating wastage and decreasing costs.

For data center servers and storage, having closely aligned operations between power generators and the main power consumers can result in more efficient workload delegation, thereby decreasing operating costs while extending the longevity of your equipment. For data center’s critical infrastructure such as HVAC systems, IoT data can create feedback loops where increased power is generated as increased HVAC usage is necessary. This can create a safer environment for sensitive equipment such as data center servers and storage, by always keeping temperatures at optimal levels while also ensuring that your HVAC systems receive the power they need to continue to operate.

Combining an IoT management and monitoring system with on-site power also creates an important layer of redundancy and safety. One of the major problems of relying on grid power for data centers is the potential failure to deliver adequate power during peak usage hours for the homes, shops, and businesses on the same grid. By removing a data center’s power supply from the regional power grid, data centers take a significant step towards continuous service.  For their customers, this means decreased downtime in network and data accessibility. On-site power plants allow operations to continue through local brown-outs or blackouts. This is a huge benefit, particularly for corporate data management, where loss of service can result in huge amounts of lost profits. On-site power can eliminate the instability of a local power grid, and set the stage for truly continuous operations and coverage.

Transforming Cost Effectiveness and Efficiency

In summary, an Internet of Things management solution is a crucial tool that can give data centers the ability to run more smoothly, cost effectively, and efficiently. IoT management solutions drive change by combining big data with intelligent analytics to pinpoint targeted areas where efficiency can be increased. Access to big data can enable corporate data management teams to enact small improvements to day-to-day operating efficiency, while also gaining insight into long term trends that affect overall operating costs. The data center analysis provided by an IoT solution also creates a more stable operating environment by anticipating equipment malfunctions before they happen. This gives data center managers the ability to perform maintenance, replacement, or equipment overhaul before critical equipment failures occur.

As a data center monitoring solution, an IoT-based system has the flexibility to be applied throughout your system. From the smallest piece of equipment or detail to the critical servers and storage apparatus, an IoT system will monitor everything in real-time. All the data collected and analyzed by an IoT system can be accessed quickly and efficiently from personalized data dashboards, giving data center managers a full-field single pane view of their operations.

When applied as a power management solution, an IoT system can functionally monitor and minimize power usage across an operation. By integrating data collection sensors and analysis software with power management, an IoT system can keep equipment running at peak levels of efficiency. This results in longer equipment longevity, lower power usage, and decreased operational costs. When an IoT system is integrated into an on-site data center power plant it can maximize efficiency across both systems. This creates a more stable system, where power is supplied more efficiently in accordance with demand. As a power management solution, an IoT system functionally reduces wastage, resulting in a greener, more efficient, and cost effective data center operation.

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