Enhancing Data Center Performance, Gamefully

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In my last blog, I advanced the idea that the cost and complexity associated with instrumenting a data center is no longer a barrier to anyone gaining accurate, data-driven insights to support facility management decision making. “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink…” states simply that those insights are available now, what’s more they’re free.

Since technology and cost aren’t a hurdle, I want to talk about the next lump in the road; people. It’s a well-worn aphorism that having the right people in place makes all the difference when it comes to ensuring efficient data center operations. But data center professionals tend to be goaled on uptime, sometimes to the exclusion of any other objectives.

Without going into the impact of growth in the sector on energy use, it’s clear that companies should be concerned about opex. If not for the sake of the environment, then for the corporate bank balance. However, using an example from the construction sector – one of the least digitized industries – professionals at the coalface don’t necessarily always share their employers concerns about profit.

In the blog post “Using equipment data to change operators behaviors” the author addresses how technology can help manage assets, save cost, reduce downtime and improve efficiency in a sector where productivity is notoriously low and margins tight. However, to achieve improvement requires behavioral change, and that can be a thorny subject. In my view, gamification could hold the keys equally for construction and data center efficiency improvements.

The use of game mechanics is being used pervasively for everything from healthcare gains as steps are counted, to motivated workforces as performance is incentivized through peer recognition and awards. Indeed, Google has achieved some sort of return on its $600M investment in DeepMind by applying the way the machine learned to play Atari video games in order to achieve a significant saving on its data center energy use.

However, I would not be surprised to learn that most companies have neither Google’s budget nor its AI capability and resources to go so far with gamifying data center management. Something far simpler is called for. Something app-based which professionals could refer to throughout the working day for real-time insight into how they’re doing.

And, of-course, something which is helpful to them in achieving useful goals and being recognized for doing so. In the same way that, e.g., Fitbit gives badges and trophies for performance; to record and signify a personal best or something outstanding. But it also wakes you up if your step rate is falling behind what’s needed.

Gamification of data center management could also set facility performance against that of other facilities in similar locations, or of similar size and load, times of day, climatic conditions. Whatever. Enabling facility to facility, and even operations team to operations team to be benchmarked against an anonymous dataset. This could even provide useful credentials for career development.

All of which could be good news for the executive board room because it will start to provide some answers to some of the trickier questions in our world. Like how much should this particular data center, with this particular architecture and characteristics, this particular equipment load, and in this particular time and place, cost to operate? All stuff we’re starting to find answers for as use increases of the Schneider Electric cloud and *Struxureon, our digital remote monitoring platform for data centers.

*September 25th update: StruxureOn was re-branded to EcoStruxure IT.

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