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Can AI boost data centre operations?

Image credit: Adobe Stock / neirfy

As organisations around the world continue to expand their data centre operations to meet the demand for computing power and storage, efficiently managing this complex infrastructure becomes increasingly challenging.

In this context, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly emerging as a vital component of data centre strategy, but to genuinely realise its potential for improving data centre performance and efficiency, it’s essential to focus on both opportunities and challenges.

Think of it this way: data centres are no longer just mammoth repositories for data; they are critical drivers of business, technology and progress. As such, their uninterrupted operation is crucial, and the effective provision of key services – from power and cooling to connectivity – helps prevent the serious ripple effects that can be generated by even the smallest levels of disruption. Granted, many data centres have functioned extremely effectively over the years, but there is always room for improvement, and this is where AI comes into play. But for AI to be an asset rather than a mere buzzword, it must evolve from just gathering data to transforming it into actionable intelligence that delivers tangible value.

As they operate, data centres produce huge volumes of data, and from temperature readings and power consumption to network traffic, the level of detail is enormous. In many cases, the challenge is not about the availability or collection of monitoring and performance data but the meaningful utilisation of it. AI, with its ability to analyse and discern patterns, can turn this data into actionable intelligence. By analysing temperature and cooling patterns, for example, AI can predict when cooling systems might fail or when they need maintenance. Similarly, by keeping an eye on network traffic, AI can predict peaks and troughs, helping to ensure the most effective allocation of valuable resources. It’s this level of actionable intelligence that is going to make AI truly invaluable in optimising data centre infrastructure the world over.

Cutting through the noise

Yet, amidst all this data, there is a lot of noise, and for data centre operators, sifting through the huge volumes of information at their disposal to figure out what’s critical can be a real challenge. AI systems, however, are suited to analysing large datasets and can be trained to understand what’s critical and what’s not, enabling them to alert human operators only when necessary. This not only helps optimise the use of valuable human resources but also ensures that critical issues are addressed promptly.

Closely linked to data centre efficiency is the search for environmental sustainability. It goes without saying that data centres are major energy consumers, and with the global spotlight on their performance and environmental impact, managing and optimising power usage is not just an operational concern; it’s also a social responsibility. Clearly, AI will have a growing role to play, with systems being used to analyse power consumption patterns and optimise usage. Moreover, AI can be integrated with innovative technologies like water cooling and renewable energy sources to make data centres more environmentally friendly, with AI having the potential to make a major contribution to the sustainability goals of data centre operators.

In delivering these various improvements, however, trust will play a pivotal role in integrating AI into data centre operations, particularly in ensuring that AI systems can manage data responsibly and make correct decisions. Moreover, trust is also about understanding that AI doesn’t replace human expertise but augments it because, ultimately, human intelligence and creativity, coupled with AI’s data processing prowess, offer the best strategy for delivering better decision-making and more efficient operations.

Meeting sustainability objectives

Looking ahead, it’s also important to consider not just what AI can do today but also what it might do tomorrow. Clearly, AI is evolving at breakneck speed, and as algorithms become more sophisticated and computing power increases, new applications and potential challenges emerge. As a result, it will remain vital for data centre operators to adopt a measured approach and before embracing any radical transformation, it’s critical to refine existing AI systems and understand their implications fully.

In addition, the integration of AI into data centre operations is not just a technological endeavour; it’s also a human one. At the end of the day, data centres serve customers and ensuring that the incorporation of AI into data centres enhances customer experience is paramount. As a result, AI should be viewed as a tool that empowers human operators to provide better services.

With these ideas driving data centre AI strategies, it’s clear that the technology has the potential to significantly transform operations and contribute to sustainability. By adopting a balanced and prudent approach that focuses on gradual improvement, trust and human-centric service, data centre operators who embrace AI thoughtfully and responsibly will be better positioned to reap its benefits in the short and long term.

Terry Storrar
Terry Storrar
Managing Director at Leaseweb UK

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