No doubt you’ve heard all kinds of stories about the Internet of Things and all the wonderful new capabilities it will bring. Think refrigerators that alert you when you’re low on milk, so you can pick some up on the way home and the like.
I’m using some of these technologies myself and they’re quite helpful. I can control the temperature at my lake house from my phone, so I can raise or lower it when I’m on the way. At the Greensource Cincinnati building where we display the latest green technologies, I can remotely unlock the door to let someone in to the building if there’s nobody on site. And all the lighting and heating systems are highly automated, so they’re on only when needed. (If you’d like to check out the Greensource Cincinnati, just click here to get in touch.)
These are all useful capabilities, but the same sort of Internet of Things technology is also bringing important new features to data centers that will likely be far more important in the long run.
Our company, Greensource Cincinnati, is a member of the Schneider Electric Elite Partner program. We’ve been selling Schneider Electric power, cooling and management products such as StruxureWare for some 10 years. I became interested in Schneider Electric because I saw, as they did, that software would be a crucial component to improving the performance and management of data centers. And when you get down to it, software – along with communications – is at the heart of the IoT.
For example, I have lots of meetings with prospects about StruxureWare, which is the Schneider Electric data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution. It enables companies to perform all sorts of monitoring, measurement and change management in their data centers. But as it turns out, clients want those capabilities wherever they happen to be, not just when they’re in the data center.
The good news is that every component in the data center has an IP address and is capable of sending data over the Internet. It’s really the IoT at work. From wherever they may be, data center operations folks, IT and facilities personnel can look at everything from server utilization rates to the performance of a chiller and whether a generator battery needs to be charged.
A mere 5 years ago, the technology simply wasn’t there to do these sorts of things and much of the reason was the software behind the various components. Each supplier tended to have a proprietary communications protocol for their own equipment. So maybe you could talk to all of your Brand X thermostats from one system, but not the Brand Z.
For IoT to work everything has to share a common, open source language, without some translator in the middle – so my iPhone can talk to Brand X and Z thermostats along with chillers, PDUs and UPSs from several other vendors. That’s where we’re at today, for the most part – certainly with respect to Schneider Electric equipment.
The way I see it, this IoT technology, when applied to a DCIM solution like StruxureWare, is helping to bridge the gap that naturally exists between IT and facilities. To run a data center effectively, these groups have to be able to communicate requirements effectively with one another, but that hasn’t always been the case. With StruxureWare and open communications, it’s now a whole lot easier for IT to let facilities know when they’ve got another rack of servers coming online and to assess what that’ll mean from a power and cooling perspective.
Over time, each group can be more effective at monitoring and managing its piece of the puzzle, to help ensure there’s no need for a 2 a.m. wakeup call when something’s going wrong. Although with IoT technology, you can bet such a call will be issued if need be.