Saturday, November 25, 2017

5 data centre reality checks

Outside St Louis, US, there is a place from where data centres – or part of them – come from. That is Schneider Electric’s Technology Center. On a visit to the site by João Marques Lima, SVP Innovation and CTO for the IT Division at Schneider Electric, Kevin Brown painted the picture of what is coming next.

SVP Innovation and CTO for the IT Division at Schneider Electric, Kevin Brown

Schneider Electric might be a global provider but it is in St Louis, Missouri, that the company keeps much of its intelligence and where new products are designed, tested and built.

From prefabricated data centre modules, to power supplies, cooling technology and more, all can be found at the large facility spanning more than 100,000 sqf, including 9,000 sqf for research and development.

On a recent visit to the company’s R&D facility, Schneider’s Brown shared with Data Economy his views on what is driving the company’s data centre business to grow.


“There is no need to rely on a centralised cloud.”

For some time, the industry was led to believe that a few large data centres would answer the world’s storage and data analytics needs. However, as Brown pointed, this is only partially true.

“Take for example payroll, email and social media; all those applications work well in that kind of [centralised] model.

“What people never really anticipated was the boom of technology and trends such as gamming and IoT.”

It will be the application and the ultimate use of that application that will shape the ecosystem.

“We are seeing that happen, and if you look at it, it comes down to a problem of latency, bandwidth and regulations.”


“Size doesn’t matter.”

In a world of central, regional and micro data centres, the size of the data centre has no relevance. Each type of facility will have its own purpose and word towards a greater common goal.

Brown said: “There is a tendency in our industry to view small sites as less mission critical than others… that is going to be proven not to be true.

“We think we are simplifying our world, but our world is actually becoming more complex.”

He said that hybrid environments are not simplifying things, and are in fact making the underlying infrastructure more complex.

“Edge computing is a kind of bridge to a centralised cloud.” Continuing the idea that we cannot rely on a central data centre, Brown said that edge data centres are coming and for a good reason.


“Edge computing is a kind of high performance bridge to a centralised cloud.”

“It is this idea that you do not do everything on site but for many people, they cannot say when their data is being saved up to the cloud.

“That is really what we are talking about, it is not centralised or distributed. It is a combination of both, and edge really is talking about what is happening closer to the load, what is that architecture going to look like.”


“People are designing data centres to fit the application” just like web scalers.”

Between web scalers and “mere mortals”, as Brown calls the non-web scalers, data centre design has always had its differences.

“One of the things that the internet giants have that mere mortals do not, is the fact that they are designing and architecting the entire system optimised around their application and then working it at a really big scale.”

However, a look inside their data centre will reveal that their enterprise applications do not necessarily do the same things.

“I am starting to see the world not necessarily as internet giants, enterprise or anything else.

“It is about the application that is going to be run and I believe that what is starting to happen is, people are designing data centres to fit the application, not necessarily enterprise versus internet giants.


“Reliability expectations are going to have to go up.”

This dependence on IT is – with no surprise – being mostly drive by tech-savvy millennials and the Generation Z, for whom downtime is simply not acceptable.

“The millennials are coming and that brings rising expectations,” warned Brown.

“We are in the process of becoming so depended on IT systems that the reliability expectations are going to have to go up.”

One of the reasons why expectations are usually let down are outages. Speaking on the topic, Brown said that when it comes to a data centre failure, this is where the system fails, “not where another data centre has power go out to a piece of IT kit”.


This article originally appeared in the Data Economy magazine. To read more on data centres, cloud and data, visit here