Evolving Facility Management Trends in Data Centers

by Frost & Sullivan's Sr. Industry Analyst, Anu Cherian — Businesses have always managed their facilities either through an internal management department, or by outsourcing it to professionals. While internal management of facilities would provide greater control, the operating expenditure and use of resources can become a key challenge for operations managers due to constrained budgets. The market for these services continues to rise at a steady pace in North America; therefore, the concept of outsourcing facilities management has gained in popularity over the past decade.

The data center is seen as a mission-critical facility worldwide. The sensitivity of data storage and availability continues to increase as data centers support many mission critical verticals ranging from hospitals, to Internet-based services such as banking and financial, to healthcare and industrial markets. However, reliability is the single most critical factor that has driven an increase in data center complexity, beginning with high power consuming IT equipment such as servers, to the equipment that comes under the purview of facilities management.

Frost & Sullivan conducts ongoing research on the integrated facilities management markets. Recent analysis found that the compound annual growth rate in North America was 5.3 percent from 2012 through 2018. The research further indicates that the commercial data center facility management market in North America for 2012 was $1.13 billion.

Management of critical equipment in the data center has created intense activity towards a variety of monitoring options from remote monitoring to integrated management, using software based intercommunicating protocols. Training and in-house development of resources aid in efficient management. Collaboration with the IT and technical staff responsible for maintenance is another avenue that helps to streamline operational responsibilities providing cohesive analysis on equipment functioning and troubleshooting. Vendors such as Schneider

Electric, Emerson Network Power and Eaton are providing a number of training workshops and operational support on a regular basis for its customers to benefit from the changing technological landscape of monitoring solutions.

Trends in Data Center Operational Management

While looking at data center operational management, there are three main aspects that need to be accounted for:

  • Physical system management and operation
  • Network management
  • Facility and infrastructure management

The physical systems in the data center vary from the IT equipment such as servers and racks, to UPS’s, cooling, and power distribution units among others. There are many ways to manage physical systems in the data center. With increasing complexity in data center architecture, there has been a need to integrate all the physical systems. Key tier one companies that are involved are Emerson Network Power, Schnieder Electric, and Eaton to manage lateral data center equipment such as power and cooling systems. Major facilities management providers such as Johnson controls, Aramak and Compass have the opportunity to leverage the data center commercial facilities management space expanding at 41.6 percent. These companies have the option of positioning themselves as a one stop shop by providing a complete range of services tailored to all data center equipment including IT. The benefits of a complete package are alluring to customers who then do not have to source each component and its service separately. The cost advantages to staying with one facility management provider are manifold. Troubleshooting can be accomplished by manufacturer enabled services, dedicated facility managers overlooking entire data centers to ensure uniformity of parameters and functioning.

The network management aspect of the data center is a complex one. The options within a data center continue to increase, thereby widening the gap between management tools and making the decision of choosing the right tool, a difficult one. From virtualization to cloud computing, there are many aspects of network management that have to be considered in order to ensure the power and cooling needs are optimized. Facility managers that have oversight not only on the lateral equipment but also have control over the entire IT landscape are in a better position to both trouble shoot and ensure higher efficiency standards in the data center. This can be accomplished by availing the vast service offerings and resources by either individual component manufacturers or facility management companies that can offer one or many data center equipment related services.

The combination of facilities and infrastructure management within a data center ensures that all planning is done in a systematic manner to ensure correct use of capital and operational expenditure that is earmarked during the budgeting process. The goal is to achieve higher energy efficiency and provide tangible energy saving methods. These benefits translate not only into savings on operations, but also longer equipment life and optimized use of equipment in the data center. Companies in these areas are IBM, Digital Reality, CA Technologies among others. Coordination of facilities management along with an eye on the budgets and efficiency parameters become highly complex and this can only be achieved by increased transparency and authority provided to facility managers to execute sound strategies that would strike a balance between the above mentioned factors. Since this is a complex decision to be made, facility managers should have expertise in all these areas which can easily be attained through training and development provided by individual equipment and IT service providers.

There are different levels of mandates present throughout the value chain, either through government mandates or industry standards that emphasize on increasing energy efficiency. The department of energy (DOE) and the Federal government in the US has taken serious steps to install a Green IT program. With over 100 national laboratories, production plants and environmental clean-up sites, data centers are the prime area of concern that can be addressed in the government owned contractor operated (GOCO) facilities of the DOE. Its broad mission is twofold. The first is to improve DOE data centers in both facilities and IT while the second is to bring innovation to the practice of data center and IT energy management. The DOE uses the power usage effectiveness (PUE) method to set the energy standard for the data center and it has stated that the ideal point is 1.0 for PUE measures. Currently the DOE has achieved a PUE of 1.4 of which 70 percent of the total energy comes from the IT infrastructure and 30 percent from facilities infrastructure.

Facility managers benefit the most from increased efficiency and higher productivity and have the option of paying a premium for specific service offerings to ensure that all equipment under their control is managed on priority.

Software-based management tools in data centers

The data center infrastructure management (DCIM) platform evolved as the prime software based protocol that enabled increased oversight over all pertinent data center equipment. By connecting the right sensors and attaching the right displays and modeling mechanisms, the DCIM platform provides much needed data for facility managers. An ideal example would be its ability to show heat graphs that clearly outline hot spots in the data center. Immediate action can then be taken to divert air flow in the direction of the hot spot to enable higher cooling efficiency. Backup power battery strings can go down at any point in time thereby reducing its reliability factor in starting up during power sags, surges and outages. DCIM tools enable battery monitoring that help identify weak areas and address them immediately thereby mitigating the risk of facing an outage unprepared.

The following figure shows the major equipment manufacturers in each of the equipment segments in the data center outlined in this article. The collaboration among all these different buckets is the way forward.

The Road Ahead

Facility management has gained the attention of a worldwide audience in the past five years, and will continue to fill in many gaps to address higher efficiency and productivity within organizations. Data centers have been an area of focus in relation to facility management, and it is evident that the era of single equipment management has transitioned to one of holistic management. This paves the way to drive the efficiency of the total data center and utilize more sophisticated management tools to enable this process. As the data center environment continues to evolve, the potential for growth is extensive and the need for standardization of platforms will drive innovation and growth in the market for the upcoming decade.

Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, works in collaboration with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today’s market participants.