By Paul Lewis, Senior Operation Director, Telehouse Europe
As the modern colocation data centre continues to increase in scale and complexity, so does the need for all operations to run smoothly and efficiently. Surging customer demand means that an ever-growing array of components (encompassing IT, facilities, and security) need real-time monitoring to ensure faults are promptly dealt with before bigger issues arise. All of this requires an unprecedented level of visibility and operational efficiency, which becomes increasingly challenging across a labyrinthine data centre with dispersed staff.
At a time when security, compliance, and efficiency are more sought after than ever, manual operations must be enhanced with more intelligent decision making. A multidisciplinary all-in-one solution is needed to enhance operations and streamline essential processes across the data centre.
Enter the robot. The latest innovations in robotics are transforming colocation data centre processes, automating manual activities to drive greater efficiencies, faster responses, and resolution times, and lowering the risks of human error. Furthermore, by taking low level and repetitious tasks out of human hands, robots complement teams by freeing them to complete more skilled and strategic activities, thereby allowing new heights of efficiency and productivity to be reached.
A single source of truth
The smooth running of the colocation data centre relies on data management systems working harmoniously together to gain a comprehensive overview of the entire ecosystem. But the sheer complexity of today’s data centre means that security, IT, and facilities need to communicate even faster and more seamlessly with each other to ensure staff have the centralised visibility to quickly respond to potential operating problems. Without this single source of truth, proactive and timely problem solving becomes difficult. Faults such as obstructions or lack of equipment are likely to only be flagged after an employee or customer completes a manual incident report, leading to precious time being lost to repetitive and mundane upkeep tasks.
While current control systems and data centre personnel carry out regular checks on facilities to ensure there are no potential hazards, technology can support and streamline these efforts, blending human expertise with automated precision and speed to achieve maximum efficiency. With robotics, a single machine can obtain 4k, in-depth, and 360-degree visibility across all areas of the data centre, diligently resolving issues and communicating any irregularities back to the relevant teams for immediate escalation. This not only bolsters security and compliance (critical concerns for all involved in colocation data centre operations) but also essentially acts as a ‘one for all’ for increasing functionality across the ecosystem.
For example, a member of staff may notice an obstruction in the corridor and notify the appropriate people, but would they necessarily notice an unrelated hazard nearby? A single robot can carry out the most exhaustive manual checks in a fraction of the time, whilst simultaneously communicating data insights around security, facility, and environmental health across multiple departments.
Robotics use innovative self-driving technology to autonomously map and navigate the data centre, establishing norms and swiftly escalating anomalies for human analysis. With no distractions or biases, the technology offers decision-makers a level of visibility, speed, and multi-layered intelligence that no single human or static camera could ever replicate. For example, live heat mapping and AI-driven sensors accurately detect anything from temperature and Wi-Fi signal strength to air quality index, smoke, and gas levels inside the building. The live data and real-time reports provided then enable the data centre to proactively address any issues that may be impacting operational efficiency or customer satisfaction.
In a busy colocation data centre, controlling humidity is crucial to protect sensitive equipment from moisture damage, which ultimately causes system failure and data loss. Robotics can assist with the advanced reporting of humidity and temperature levels, providing decision-makers with an extra layer of visibility while also helping to balance workloads, costs, and energy efficiency throughout the data centre.
Complementing human strengths
Despite media-fuelled fears of jobs being stolen by robotics, the only jobs robots are likely to take from colocation data centres are the ones people should not have had to do in the first place. Data centres will always continue to rely on the skills of human workers, while robots will continue to excel at the most tedious, time-consuming, and repetitive aspects of colocation data centre work. When menial tasks are replaced by automated processes, staff are unburdened from robotic work and released to focus on other areas of the business. In turn, by improving the workflow of tasks within the data centre, robotics act as a key enabler of operational excellence, yielding greater insights and innovation as data centre demand continues to rise.
Automated technologies have a proven record of driving continuous improvements and efficiency gains within the industry. But more recent innovations in robotics are unlocking a new frontier in data centre security, productivity, and 360-degree intelligence.