The implementation of 5G infrastructure in the UK is firmly underway. The rollout is spearheaded by the main mobile network operators – such as EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three – and is also supported by government boosting, all with the aim of delivering 5G access to the majority of the population by 2025, with its faster speeds, lower latency, and significant capacity to support existing and new technology.
However, for these benefits to become a reality, more than telecoms and government investment is needed. Data centre managers and providers also play an important role in the successful rollout of 5G. Because, as with all of the current trends driving change in the technology sector, the provisioning of data centre capacity lays the foundation. With greater connectivity comes increased data transfer, requiring more switching capacity. As we move more data, we also want to store more and process it faster, pushing up the demand for storage and compute capacity.
This poses challenges for facility managers when looking at their sites’ existing capacity, layout, and design. They will need to review their current estate to assess where they can accommodate the demands generated by 5G, while also making sure they can still support the current 4G infrastructure for years to come. This is where the deployment of a digital twin can help.
Meeting capacity demands
A data centre digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical facility. It allows facility managers to simulate the data centre’s performance and visualise all the components of capacity at any point in time. The use of a digital twin has several advantages including system optimisation, troubleshooting, and planning for future expansion.
By harnessing the capabilities of a digital twin, managers can maximise capacity by uncovering both where capacity is truly constrained and where it is not. When making plans to deploy any new equipment, layouts can be targeted to fit in with this capacity map. This means they can ensure that they are making the most of their existing infrastructure.
What’s more, a digital twin can also help managers of an enterprise data centre establish if their current estate is able to support a large project like 5G deployment, or whether they need to consider other options like building new facilities, going to a colocation site, or to the cloud. Getting these decisions right is paramount to a successful strategy, and having data on the true capacity of the existing sites and when in the growth cycle that will be exhausted is a critical input to that.
Overcoming cooling challenges
One of the key challenges data centre managers will face with the rise of 5G, and related demands for high-density servers and CPUs, is that changes to a facility’s architecture can result in difficulties with cooling the data centre effectively.
The digital twin can simulate the effectiveness of the current cooling system in supporting any proposed new equipment. This allows data centre managers to see what the actual impact of the changes will be on the environment in the facility. With no limitations on the changes that can be made in the digital twin, different growth scenarios can be implemented until the limit of the current infrastructure is found, all on day zero. The digital twin can then be used to manage these changes day to day as the strategy is implemented.
Delivering remote connectivity
The power of connectivity is not only seen in the telecoms industry. In the context of data centres, digital twins can be used to remotely monitor various aspects of the facility, including its temperature and subsequent cooling systems, to manage any potential downtime as quickly as possible. This ability to remotely engage with data centres is of critical importance to the successful introduction of 5G, as geographically dispersed edge facilities (that would otherwise be more difficult to maintain) are called upon to enable the new generation of network technology. Crucially, digital twins could help to facilitate a personnel-free data centre environment at the edge.
Future-proofing data centers to support 5G
It’s clear that data centres are key to the successful introduction of 5G and that over the coming months and years, they will need to evolve to facilitate this advancement. Digital twins will be key to this process, and crucial to helping those data centres that use them to capitalise on the business opportunities that 5G adoption presents, before they are beaten to the finish line by other early adopters.