As hyperscale providers build data centres with an expanding fleet to meet worldwide demand, the complexities to operate and maintain these facilities are creating an unprecedented set of challenges. Operating at this scale requires a different approach for mission critical facilities powering the globe’s digital infrastructure.
Schneider Electric and AVEVA have announced their expanded partnership to deliver innovative solutions for the data centre market. The combination of AVEVA Unified Operations Centre, scalable industrial software with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure for Data Centres control and monitoring capabilities enables both deep and expansive visibility to day-to-day operations.
The new joint solutions provide a homogenous view of engineering, operations, and performance across a heterogenous, legacy installed base. Hyperscale data centre providers will benefit from this partnership by connecting platforms and data sets that previously existed in disparate systems. They will also be able to scale regardless of the number of sites or global location. Data centre staff will be empowered to make faster, more informed decisions and optimise asset and operational efficiency throughout the data centre lifecycle. As a result, data centre providers can deliver a globally consistent experience to address the expanding digital infrastructure needs of their clients.
Optimising electrical power systems
“In this current climate with the incredible growth in data usage, it is the servers that everyone is thinking about,” Craig Hayman, CEO, AVEVA says. “That is not our area of focus; we concentrate on the electrical systems that are used to power UPS, access control, environmental monitoring, heat and cooling, sensors, and lighting control. There is a lot of switchgear and equipment through high, medium, and low voltage systems. It is the electricity that makes it possible.”
The offering, just as the data centre market, is grouped into three categories as Hayman explains. “First you have the huge centralised data centres, then the regional edge data centres sitting close to consumers and then you have got very local edge small single-use data centres. What we have developed with Schneider is the Unified Operations Centre, which is a way of snapping into an environment and looking at all the operational data. It is something that we have already produced for other sectors such as oil and gas, smart cities and now we have developed it for data centres.
“There are three versions of it, level one, two and three. Level one would be for a single site, level two for multi-sites and level three for enterprise-wide optimisation. For a single site you would be managing things such as connectivity, subsystems, and alarm management. At level two you are doing all that while looking at centralising your operations across multiple data centres working to increase uptime or improve maintenance procedures. Then you go on to level three where you are now looking across multiple regions and multiple data centres, and potentially looking at different workloads, maybe like financial databases versus IoT devices flowing into that data centre.”
A holistic view of diverse data
The approach builds on the growing realisation that everyone has a different view of the data. Even within a single data centre, people look at one individual system rather than a holistic version of the operation. “The first thing we do is very quickly allow anyone who is accessing that data centre to look at the same data, a single version of the truth,” Hayman adds. “Then something wonderful happens because when everyone looks at the same data, they can start having meaningful conversations about it. When they are looking at slightly different data, they get into disagreements, but by putting it in The Unified Operations Centre they can see that single answer, and they can all look at the data consistently.”
This single version of the truth is constructed using a knowledge graph. “This is much the same way as Google, who take in data from different systems and different websites and connect it and build a graph of that understanding to present when a word or term is searched, “ Hayman continues. “What we do is we create that knowledge graph for all the assets that sit within the data centre. When you are looking at, for example, the cooling system, we can understand and navigate from the cooling system into the security system, look across from the alarms and understand what the power consumption was. These are vastly different systems often from different vendors – it is a heterogeneous environment. We can snap in very rapidly, we have all these thousands of adapters and connectors to talk to all this equipment made by different manufacturers and create a single knowledge graph around the data.”
Plotting a path to sustainability
This ability to control and manage the electrical systems in a data centre, or a fleet of data centres, is a vital step to improving efficiency and reducing power consumption. “We think sitting at home watching Netflix is a sedentary, enjoyable activity, but it is actually burning a decent amount of power on the Internet,” Hayman says. “It is important that these data centres are running in a more sustainable way. That means not just putting solar panels on the roof, but it means managing the cooling and heating, figuring out how to flex the capacity and the power in the facility based on demand.
“It has to be treated the same way as a utility. If you go back in time, power stations have different generators and some of them will be down as they balance the load. The same thing happens in data centres, it is simply different resources being managed. The sector knows how to build the servers, how to run the workloads, but really it is quite nascent in managing it for the environment.”
At this moment in time there is unprecedented demand for data centres as work becomes more digital as we work from home. “Our customers who build and operate data centres are under a lot of pressure to do that reliably and sustainably,” Hayman concludes. “As we begin to work with them, they are extremely interested in the solution. They find there is nothing else out there on the market that would allow you to do that, so we are very bullish about it. As AVEVA, we have a view that all our customers are on a digital journey and as we work with them through that journey, we see ourselves as being on that journey with them. We work with the customers, we learn, and we get feedback and we evolve the product.”