Internet of Things, Robots and Fully Automated Data Center

This is a light read for a weekend piece.

Many reports are saying how Internet of Things will generate so much data that more data centers are needed to store and process such huge amount of data. This post is not about that sort of impact. Instead, it is making sense of the amount of things aka sensors that are in a data center and whether we can now fully automate a data center.

No more than ten years ago we have bank teller, customer service agent, post office clerk, security guard, soldier, etc; nowadays it’s ATM, interactive helpline, self service stamp dispenser, two way Comm with camera (the guy maybe remote location), and a joystick welding jock that “fly” a UAV. We are dealing more and more with automated responses and people that are time-spliced to deal with those few that got through those pre-programmed decision rhombus.

All modern data centers are highly automated, chiller gets turned up and the CRAC switched from standby to run state when the heat load is sensed by sensors, and vice versa is done when heat load drops. CCTV records faithfully non stop 24×7, and door is released based on authorized card access.

Human activities for a data center, especially one that is at or near full capacity, takes place usually in reaction to events such as visit, incident, maintenance activity, and delivery of supplies. Pre-scheduling all of the non incident events makes flexible scheduling of staff an opt especially when such routine drains scarce experienced data center staff is not an efficient use of valued manpower.

If you watched the 2009 movie “Moon” by Duncan Jones, a single human operator monitor an entire automated mining facility with the help of GERTY which is the station artificial intelligence. By the way, I strongly believe a shift has got to have at least two duty personnel both to have separate do and check duties plus to check on each other well being during hours. Is it possible now to have that kind of automation in a data center?

Before Internet of Things get popular as a term, our data centers have been installed with hundreds or more sensors, temperature, humidity, heat, airflow, current ampere, circuit trip sensor, motion detector, electronics lock, automated door, water leakage etc. These sensors sends signal to the central management systems that personnel get pinged to react and manage any anomaly.

We assign staff to monitor maintenance specialist from the manufacturer appointed service company doing what the qualified service personnel should know very well to do and our staff strength limits assigning too many maintenance activities with enough capacity to respond to incident caused by anomaly.

What about those situations or places to faults which are not fully monitored?

This is when we should have a well documented and growing incident database that collects incidents from every data center that is out there. Situations such as the high pitch noise of chilled water pump shaft wobbling giving off pre-failure sign tells us that we can put camera and noise sensor to monitor the chilled water plant room.

The possibilities are there.

Going one step further, how about deploying robots? Looking at these latest development on robots, it is a possibility now or in the near future to see these in a data center monitoring maintenance work, doing routine check, patrolling, etc:

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3049708/meet-the-scary-little-security-robot-thats-patrolling-silicon-valley

http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/24/technology/google-robot/

Just to clarify, I am not advocating to replace human with robot, but to take away menial and routine task that are more efficient if monitored more regularly.

The case of the wobbly cam shaft of chilled water pump is a real incident at a data center site. There is another case where a corroded chilled water pipe that burst and leaked water which got onto the UPS at the floor below. These places are patrolled by 24×7 duty facility engineers who patrolled at 4 hours internal, but the previous round has walked the place an hour ago and the incident took place.

People are still needed, like the operator in the “Moon” movie, but the operator deal with the anomalies and gets thing moving along. We want our staff to be challenged and do the tasks to keep our data center humming along nicely.

So, the Internet of Things can be more fully deployed to plug the gaps where we still rely on human patrol and check to detect issues, or put a staff to monitor maintenance specialist from the manufacturer appointed service company doing what they should know very well, it may already happened in a third party data center service provider whereby site are monitored remotely during off visit hours . Going further to see lots of fully automated data center will be a reality in the next 10 years.

Talks of a few fully automated data center:
http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2013/05/22/the-data-center-of-tomorrow-totally-lights-out-within-5-years/

http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2011/10/11/aol-launches-new-lights-out-data-center/

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Internet of Things, Robots and Fully Automated Data Center

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