The Need for an Autonomous Data Center

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If you’re a data center provider, it goes without saying that your operations team has two fundamental responsibilities:

  1. To monitor and manage the physical data center infrastructure — servers, storage, and networking.
  2. To monitor and manage the building infrastructure, including power and cooling technologies.

 

The ultimate goal of both responsibilities is efficiency optimization in the broadest sense. After all, Operations teams work to maximize cooling and rack space utilization, ensure uptime, enhance application performance, and all the other metrics you’d expect in the data center. 

And once upon a time, they drove efficiencies using the principles and tools that fell under an umbrella called data center infrastructure management, or DCIM. Our friends at TechTarget say: 

Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is the convergence of IT and building facilities functions within an organization. The goal of a DCIM initiative is to provide administrators with a holistic view of a data center’s performance so that energy, equipment, and floor space are used as efficiently as possible.

DCIM makes sense, intuitively — it’s about centralizing insight and control over anything in the data center. DCIM lets organizations use energy, equipment, and floor space efficiently, which is of paramount importance — they all cost money. By managing them carefully, organizations can reduce operational costs and hopefully keep tenants happy.

It seems as though DCIM ought to be a universal concept that’s an ongoing area of innovation. But funnily enough, you don’t hear much about DCIM anymore. Even the TechTarget article was last updated in 2013. In a sense, it feels as though it’s a defunct concept.

Why is that? After all, we still need data center performance, efficiency, and reliability enhancements.

So why has DCIM apparently gone away?

The reality in today’s data centers, especially in colocation facilities, is simply that the data center is so complex, the IT infrastructure in it is so complex, and the workloads are so variable, the old efforts to unify command and control for both building functions and IT operations simply can’t provide compelling value. It’s just too hard for operations teams to deal with the constantly shifting demands of today’s mix of legacy and leading-edge infrastructure from a single tool. Most organizations have a collection of tools — some provided by infrastructure manufacturers, some that span a collection of different vendors, but the promise of DCIM seems to have been left by the wayside.

Some software vendors have tried to help. They would tell you that their management solutions, based on analytics, give operations teams the tools they need to succeed. But at best, today’s management (sometimes still called DCIM) gives you a look at the now. It’s not predictive, it doesn’t offer a view of future problems, it doesn’t pick up on patterns, and it doesn’t make recommendations for future enhancements.

To make matters worse, as data centers grow, as efficiency matters more and more, even the best analytics and dashboards can’t solve the limitations of human intervention. Human response times and the ability to multitask are limited, human error introduces substantial problems, and sourcing the right skill sets, in the right locations, at the right time, for the right cost is a challenge most organizations struggle to solve.

So we live in a world today where even the best infrastructure management tools are limited in their scope, their ability to provide future insight and reduce failures, and the value they bring to data center operations.

That’s why, at Nautilus, we see the need for something new. Whether you just call it autonomous management, a DCIM, or simply an autonomous data center, the ground rules are the same. As a data center operator and innovator, we think that there’s a real need for a next-generation approach to data center management, one that could be, and should be:

  1. Powered by a facility-wide AI/ML platform built on predictive analytics.
  2. Tied into everything, from virtual machines and containers to chillers and power distribution, through APIs and ubiquitous sensor data 
  3. Able to learn not only from sensor data but also from habitual user interventions 
  4. Gaining insight from other, similarly equipped data centers.
  5. Delivering command and control across all data center functions, from power and cooling to server performance and network bandwidth.
  6. Based on open source technologies to facilitate widespread adoption
  7. Self-optimizing and self-healing.

Let’s imagine for a moment that data center providers had a centralized management platform based on these principles, or, to look at it another way, with autonomous data centers, what could happen?

In today’s data centers, outages are usually caused by human interference and error. With autonomous, self-healing technology, data centers can shorten mean-time-to-repair, reducing downtime. 

The autonomous data center could identify patterns before there’s a problem. It could recognize, for example, increasing demand on servers due to eCommerce applications being used during the holidays, and compensate by activating dormant servers and chillers to provide additional application performance.

This capability opens up substantial opportunities for data center providers who wish to build data centers in areas that are difficult to service, in edge deployments, and in unusual environments like the Space Station. 

It would also offer company-wise, and society-wide advantages by reducing power consumption. Unnecessary infrastructure could be automatically powered down as needed, systems could turn on and off based on environmental changes, and new deployments could be automatically optimized before they go into a rack.

However, there’s a problem.

We know of NO organizations that are thinking along these lines. We’re familiar with the state of the art in the industry, and so far, no vendor is able to deliver on these concepts. That’s frustrating because server vendors ARE doing this work, network vendors have self-healing capabilities in hardware and software, but there’s nobody thinking along these lines at the data center level.

But the potential is there. The value is obvious. And the opportunity is one that’s hard to pass up.

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Chad Romine

Chad Romine has over two decades of experience in technical and strategic business development. As Vice President of Business Development for Nautilus Data Technologies, Mr. Romine brings global connectivity to some of the most prominent global influencers in technology. Mr. Romine has led startups and under-performing companies to successful maturity built largely upon solid partnerships. Proven results in negotiating mutually beneficial strategic alliances and joint ventures. Outside of work, Chad has invested time fundraising for the American Cancer Society. Mr. Romine recently helped secure funding and led marketing for the completion of a new private University.

Ashley Sturm

Ashley Sturm is a marketing and strategy leader with more than 15 years of experience developing strategic marketing initiatives to increase brand affinity, shape the customer experience, and grow market share. As the Vice President of Marketing at Nautilus Data Technologies, Ashley is responsible for all global marketing initiatives; she integrates the corporate strategy, marketing, branding, and customer experience to best serve clients and produce real business results. Before joining Nautilus Data Technologies, she served as the Senior Director of Marketing Brand and Content for NTT Global Data Centers Americas, spearheading marketing efforts to open two out of six data center campuses. Prior to NTT, Ashley led global marketing through the startup of Vertiv’s Global Data Center Solutions business unit, where she developed the unit’s foundational messaging and established global and regional marketing teams. Ashley’s career experience includes extensive work with the US Navy through the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness as well as broadcast journalism. Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in converged media from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

Paul Royere

Paul Royere is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Nautilus Data Technologies. For more than twenty years, he has specialized in finance and administration leadership for emerging technology companies, guiding them through high growth commercialization. In addition to senior team roles guiding strategic business operations, Mr. Royere has directed cross-functional teams in implementing business support systems, designing and measuring business plan performance, leading pre/post-merger activities, and delivering requisite corporate, tax and audit compliance.

While at 365 Data Centers, Mr. Royere served as Vice President of Finance leading a multi-discipline restructuring in preparation for the successful sale of seventeen data centers. As Vice President and Corporate Controller at Reliance Globalcom, Royere led the finance and business support teams to and through the conversion from a privately held company to a subsidiary of an international public conglomerate.

Arnold Magcale

Arnold Magcale is founder and Chief Technology Officer of Nautilus Data Technologies. As a recognized leader and respected visionary in the technology industry, he specializes in data center infrastructure, high-availability networks, cloud design, and Software as a Service (SaaS) Technology.

While serving on the management team of Exodus Communications, he launched one of Silicon Valley’s first data centers. Mr. Magcale’s background includes executive positions at Motorola Mobility, where his team deployed the first global Droid devices, and LinkSource Technologies and The Quantum Capital Fund, serving as Chief Technology Officer. He was an early adopter and implementer of Cloud Computing and a member of the team at Danger, Inc., acquired by Microsoft.


Mr. Magcale had a distinguished ten year career in the United States Navy Special Forces. His military and maritime expertise provided the foundation for inventing the world’s first commercial waterborne data center.

Patrick Quirk

Patrick Quirk is a business and technology executive who specializes in operations management, strategic partnerships, and technology leadership in data center, telecommunications, software, and semiconductor markets. Prior to joining Nautilus, he spent the past year working with small businesses and non-profits on survival and growth strategies in addition to PE advisory roles for critical infrastructure acquisitions. Quirk was the President of Avocent Corp, a subsidiary of Vertiv, the Vice President and General Manager for the IT Systems business, and the VP/GM of Converged Systems at Emerson Network Power, providing data center management infrastructure for data center IT, power, and thermal management products. He has held numerous global leadership roles in startups and large multinational companies including LSI and Motorola in the networking and semiconductor markets.

Rob Pfleging

Most recently, Rob was the Senior Vice President of Global Solutions at Vertiv Co, formerly Emerson Network Power. Vertiv Co is an international company that designs, develops and maintains critical infrastructures that run vital applications in data centers, communication networks and commercial and industrial facilities. Rob was responsible for the global solutions line of business at ​​Vertiv, which serves the Americas, Europe and Asia. Prior to Vertiv, Rob was the Vice President of Expansion and Innovation, Datacenter Engineering at CenturyLink, where he was responsible for 55 datacenters across North America, Europe and Asia. Before working for CenturyLink, Rob was the Executive Director of Computer/Data Center Operations at Mercy, where he led datacenter engineering and operations, desktop field services, call center services, and asset management and logistics for more than 40 hospitals. Before fulfilling this mission at Mercy, Rob held various engineering management and sales positions at Schneider Electric. Rob Pfleging additionally served for 6 years in the United States Marine Corps.

James Connaughton

James Connaughton is a globally distinguished energy, environment, technology expert, as both corporate leader and White House policymaker. Mr. Connaughton is the CEO of Nautilus Data Technologies, a high-performance, ultra-efficient, and sustainable data center infrastructure company powered by its proprietary water-cooling system. Before joining Nautilus Data Technologies, he served as Executive Vice President of C3.ai, a leading enterprise AI software provider for accelerating digital transformation.

From 2009-2013, Mr. Connaughton was Executive Vice President and a member of the Management Committee of Exelon and Constellation Energy, two of America’s cleanest, competitive suppliers of electricity, natural gas, and energy services. In 2001, Mr. Connaughton was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to serve as Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He served as President George W. Bush’s senior advisor on energy, environment, and natural resources, and as Director of the White House Office of Environmental Policy. During his eight-year service, Mr. Connaughton worked closely with the President, the Cabinet, and the Congress to develop and implement energy, environment, natural resource, and climate change policies. An avid ocean conservationist, Mr. Connaughton helped establish four of the largest and most ecologically diverse marine resource conservation areas in the world.

Mr. Connaughton is a member of the Advisory Board of the ClearPath Foundation and serves as an Advisor to X (Google’s Moonshot Factory) and Shine Technologies, a medical and commercial isotope company. He is also a member of the Board of Directors at the Resources for the Future and a member of the Advisory Boards at Yale’s Center on Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia’s Global Center on Energy Policy.