A new generation of “lights-out” data centers will be optimized for extreme efficiency, not for human access or comfort.

What is a “lights-out” data center?

This is a data center that is physically or geographically isolated from an organization's headquarters, thereby limiting environmental fluctuations and human access. Unnecessary energy used for lighting and for maintaining a proper climate can be saved by going lights-out.

Along with saving energy by keeping the data center dark and climate controlled, limiting human error is one of the main advantages of this approach. When many people have access to a data center, this increases the chances of a cable being knocked loose, a power cord being stepped on, memory being tampered with and any number of other small occurrences that can cause nightmares for IT administrators. Some other benefits include lower insurance costs, less theft, and a lower risk of data security breaches.

The future

Lights-out data centers may be a niche option at the moment, however with developments in remote monitoring, analytics, AI, and robotics this type of data center could be taken much further in the near future.

Technology analyst firm 451 Research recently coined the phrase “Data Center as a Machine” to define unstaffed facilities that are primarily designed, built, and operated as units of IT rather than buildings. “As data centers become more complex, with tighter software-controlled integration between components, they will increasingly be viewed as complex machines rather than real estate,” 451 Research states.

A current advocate of this type of data center operations is EdgeConneX. With on-site staff effectively designed out of their facilities, EdgeConneX uses a comprehensive remote monitoring platform called “EdgeOS” to do the job. Their proprietary next generation operating system, EdgeOS, monitors and supports their global portfolio of Edge Data Centers®, providing their customers with a 24x7, single, secure view of all their infrastructure at the Edge.

“EdgeConneX focuses on continuous innovation, with an emphasis on customer service. We go where our customers require us to be and that close collaboration is key to our rapid site selection, streamlined builds and both efficient and advanced deployments with these customers,” comments Clint Heiden, Chief Commercial Officer, EdgeConneX. “Our sophisticated and savvy customer base has embraced the early adoption of our lights out approach and they have experienced tremendous savings deploying at the Edge with us.”

Emerging tools, such as Data Center Management-as-a-Service (DMaaS), which is effectively cloud-based data center infrastructure management, or DCIM, software – could also enable suppliers to take remote control (including predictive maintenance) of specific equipment or even an entire site. Eventual integration with AI/machine learning could also lead to more IT and facilities tasks being automated and self-regulated. Robotics is also likely to play a greater role in future data center management.

Despite the potential, many impediments will need to be overcome before unstaffed data centers become widely adopted. The biggest of these is the perception that such designs would introduce additional risk.

There are specific use cases where unstaffed sites may eventually become the norm. For example, new micro-data center form factors to support edge computing are expected to increase in the next few years. They are likely to be monitored remotely and only require periodic visits from specialist maintenance staff.

For more information on EdgeConneX, other data centers using this technology, or data center market trends, set up a quick call with one of our experts here.