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Data Centers: Turning a Treasure Trove of Unexplored Data
into Insights for Tomorrow’s Innovators
Steven So, VP, Data Center Business, NTT Com Asia

For global enterprises, the data center is becoming a critically important investment to ensure reliability of mission-critical and interconnected IT systems. However, the rising complexity of data center operations demands a more systematic and sophisticated approach to infrastructure management. The new generation of data center is by necessity being specially designed to leverage big data analytics, not just to enhance the visibility of data center management, but also to enable enterprises to predict any possible asset failures or downtime, and deploy resources more efficiently.

Over 80% of Available Data is Unexplored

Yet, big data remains more a buzzword than an accessible tool in many data centers. The complexity of the ecosystem means there are hundreds and thousands of data points and systems that need to be connected in real time. A typical data center with 4,000 racks may have approximately 140,000 sensing points, 1,500 CCTVs and 10,000 pieces of critical equipment. You can imagine the sheer volume of data collected from the equipment, thermal sensors, maintenance and CCTVs at any given time. Even in a data center, however, over 80% of data is neither being explored nor analyzed for insight generation.

The reason sensors and connected systems are not leveraged to collate the unexplored data comes down to the fact that data centers are oftentimes designed and built without a holistic approach in mind. It would be extremely difficult to fix blind spots if the original facility buildout was not well thought out and architected.

The Power of Big Data – The Key to Success is Making it Accessible and Visible

To overcome these blind spots and leverage the 80% of data that remain unexplored, it’s paramount for a data center operator to have a clear big-data strategy covering the entire lifecycle of the data center including: design, construction, commissioning, operation and service provision. The invaluable data collected from the complex ecosystem can be a game changer that boosts service visibility and performance if it can be captured and converted into actionable intelligence.

With actionable insights gleaned from the data, we can predict and optimize data center performance. For instance, instead of deploying a preventive maintenance strategy that involves regular planned shut-down or off-loading of redundant capacity, we can deploy a predictive maintenance strategy that allows convenient scheduling of corrective maintenance and prevents unexpected equipment failures enabled by obtaining the right information from the system at the right time. This substantially increases facility availability, equipment lifespan and safety. It also reduces incidents and optimizes spare parts handling.

More importantly, the visibility empowered by data opens up a new dimension of values closely linked to the service-level agreement (SLA) offered by data center operators, to ensure customers are fully confident in different aspects offering guarantees on areas such as reliability, capacity, energy efficiency and security – which ultimately translates into ‘peace of mind’.

With this in mind, NTT Communications has launched a cloud-based, self-service portal - Virtual Data Center (VDC) Customer Portal – at our Financial Data Center in Hong Kong. Traditionally, customers only passively receive regular maintenance summary reports from data center providers. With this new portal, however, we can shake up the status quo by reversing the passive nature of data center insights generation and consumption. It means customers can now be put in the driver’s seat to conduct better strategic investment planning by doing data crunching of the historical and real-time data available in a data center.

Tomorrow’s Innovators

In essence, we are moving into a new world where customers’ end-to-end visibility into the data center will become increasingly critical for data center operators to differentiate and deliver predictive insights and support. To meet these ends, a strategic data center provider should be able to walk the talk when it comes to digitalization, from designing to construction to running a “smart data center”. Only by doing this, will we be able to overcome digital blind spots to become tomorrow’s true innovators.

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