Remote data centre services have never been more important
April 3, 2020 11:25 am Published by Leave your thoughts

EkkoSense’s co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Stu Redshaw considers the impact of homeworking and lockdown on data centres – and looks at some of the steps that operators can take to ensure the resilience of their critical facilities under sustained workload pressures.
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With the UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer now suggesting that people should not expect to get back to ‘normal life’ for six months or even longer, it’s clear that coronavirus will have far reaching impact on all aspects of society.

As the UK enters its third full week of lockdown, we’re already seeing that coronavirus is having a significant effect on the services that we use for our home and working lives. In hard-hit Italy, reports suggest that Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp usage is up by 50%, analyst firm Nielsen estimates that Netflix and YouTube streaming traffic has increased by 60% – necessitating a reduction in streaming quality, while Kantar indicates an estimated 70% increase in web browsing.

Working from home is also placing new demands on hosted service providers, with Microsoft Teams seeing its daily active userbase double within a week – with users generating over 900 million meeting and calling minutes daily. In its latest cloud services continuity update, Microsoft reported a 775% increase in its cloud services usage in regions that have enforced social distancing or ‘shelter in place’ orders. And it’s not just Microsoft. Video service Zoom reported that its average global daily download rate spiked at 40x higher on March 23rd.

Network service providers are also being challenged. BT estimates that its daytime weekday traffic has increased by 35-60%, while Vodafone has reported a 30% increase in Internet usage across both its fixed-line and mobile networks – and that’s without any football streaming.

So we’re now in a situation where cloud service and telco providers are experiencing unprecedented demand, and that’s certainly causing serious concern for the many data centre operators that are hosting these and other services.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak was even a factor we knew that even the best data centres still have power and capacity challenges, and that cooling issues accounted for almost a third of unplanned data centre outages. Despite these concerns, less than 5% of data centre managers were actually gathering the data they needed to effectively manage their thermal performance.

It’s against this background that we need to consider the exceptional impact that the coronavirus pandemic is placing on data centres. Given that maximising data centre performance is difficult enough during normal conditions, then optimising while also trying to accommodate this sustained added pressure on hosted service is obviously going to be challenging.

Data centre teams will need more help than ever before, particularly with lockdown making it difficult for anyone but essential staff to work on site. Operators are also restricting access. Equinix, for example, has reportedly closed its data centres to customers and contractors in many countries, while others are not accepting any external visitors in any building.

Remote services have never been more critical
At a time when many data centres aren’t able to get their teams physically on-site due to lockdown challenges – and as we move into warmer weather – having visibility of thermal performance at critical sites becomes ever more important. However, the good news is that data centre ops teams increasingly don’t need to be on-site to monitor thermal performance.

As a data centre performance optimisation specialist, we are able to track the impact of coronavirus on our customers’ critical facilities as we work with organisations to remove thermal risk from their operations. Using our EkkoSoft Critical SaaS solution we’ve been able to track the thermal and cooling performance of racks and cooling units, effectively tracking temperature increases as data centres come under higher and higher loads. Fortunately, with this kind of insight we have been able to remotely advise our clients on optimisation tactics – helping them to eliminate thermal hotspots and improve their resilience.

This kind of capability becomes increasingly important in times of unprecedented workloads. Our SaaS solution lets organisations quickly build, populate and edit their data centre rooms in 3D – enabling the creation of 3D-simulated ‘digital twins’ that feature a drag and drop capability to simulate planned or unexpected data centre changes. These could include a sudden, unexpected increase in customer demand (such as those being experienced currently) as well as more routine activity such as cooling upgrades.

By coupling your data centre digital twin with the latest Internet of Things enabled wireless temperature sensors, it’s now possible for data centres to track the condition of every asset of interest across their sites – right down to individual racks where required. Together this approach makes the real-time thermal management of critical facilities such as data centres a reality – even in the most difficult of circumstances.

If you would like help fast tracking remote visibility of your data centre please contact my colleague Martin Docherty – martin.docherty@ekkosense.com / +44(0)115 857 8388 or get in touch with myself.

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This post was written by Cheryl Billson

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