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AI and the rise of the Smart Data Centres

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By Nikhil Rathi, CEO, Web Werks

Data comes in all sizes and forms – and it is the biggest enabler in the hands of businesses today. And data centres, where tremendous amounts of data are stored, are the heart and soul of all the technology that is powering our world. It is ‘ground zero’ where all the action takes place. It is where everything begins and where all the pieces of the jigsaw finally fall into place. Time and again, Hollywood has demonstrated how the lethal combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and data can drive previously unimaginable things to reality. From catching the murderer even before a crime is committed (Minority Report) to taking control over humanity (I, Robot), AI can prove to be a real game changer when it comes to playing with truckloads of data. Even as Tom Cruise hung from a suspension while stealing classified data, the criticality of data centres and their existence cannot be better explained. And it is the data from these data centres that run like blood through the veins of AI. While Hollywood may have given us a sneak-peak into a world that may seem like a parallel universe years ahead of our time, we are only just beginning to experience the true potential of AI in handling data.

The current data culture has set off a transformational acceleration of the digital age. Where organisations are using data-driven processes to maximise their output, AI is changing the way data centres function right from the core. AI and machine learning have become an intrinsic part of data centres in current times, so much so that studies predict that lack of AI integration could drive more than 30 per cent of data centres worldwide to obsoletion by 2020. Industry experts suggest that as companies increasingly deploy AI-powered processes to man their data hubs, they are constantly on the lookout to replace labour-intensive jobs such as server optimisation and equipment monitoring with automation. Here are some AI trends that are redefining the way data centres operate :

Improved data security

Fighting cyber crime is a real challenge for most organisations as cybercriminals unleash new and more dangerous forms of malware each day. If the Matrix were to become a reality and if you indeed choose ‘the blue pill’, imagine the information loss the world would incur with huge amounts of data exposed! Recently, a data breach reportedly exposed over 770 million emails and 21 million passwords putting sensitive user information at risk. Using AI to fortify data security at data centres can enable systems to detect loopholes and prevent malware attacks by carefully monitoring data traffic. Here AI can not only replace humans in mundane, repetitive jobs but also passive cameras with smart monitoring devices that allow real time tracking and detect suspicious behaviour spontaneously.

Energy-efficient data centres

Data centres are large units that consume huge amounts of electricity. Globally, more than 416 billion kWh of electricity is consumed by data centres each year. Cooling systems are one of the most power-intensive components in these centres. With sustainability at the core of human survival, leading businesses are constantly pushing to achieve better performance in terms of energy, water and other resources. AI-based cooling systems allow a better understanding of the environment, which means the system can be regulated in response to the slightest of external stimuli that may otherwise not be picked up by manual devices. For instance, tech giant Google has shown the world how it is done by using AI to bring down their data centre’s power consumption by almost 40 per cent. A shift to direct-to-chip liquid cooling systems has helped Google to build bigger and more powerful AI hardware that is capable of greater workloads. Organisations can program AIs to analyse temperature set points, evaluate cooling efficiency and to collect data, capture energy inefficiencies and cooling losses using smart sensors.

Automation

AI has been the biggest influence around us. It has completely transformed how we see data and the way data centres function. If you think of a future where the Terminator might be actually chasing you or one where the Transformers will be walking the earth spelling doom for humanity, then you will surely paint a scary picture. But when you think of the wonders AI can create through automating some of the most difficult tasks of our life, then life can be pretty promising. From an organisational perspective, automation has been a desire of many companies that run data centres. Many have been experimenting with automation at different levels to make their systems less susceptible to human errors. Besides, automation of labour-intensive tasks can leave employees with more time to concentrate on higher order jobs and upscaling themselves, thereby increasing overall productivity of an organisation. Another advantage that automation provides is decreasing downtime of servers. With AI, it is possible to actively monitor equipment and detect any impending issues. Having a quick automated feedback system in place can help engineers fix problems even before it leads to downtime.

In conclusion

Even though a real-life version of 2001: A space Odyssey may seem a little far-fetched, AI is no longer just confined to science fiction. While this revolutionary technology is yet to arrive in a big way, it is rapidly transforming many aspects of data centre operations. The day is not far when AI will dominate the world of data. They may even know you inside out. And maybe you will soon find yourself falling in love with an AI just like in the movie Her. Until then the future has just begun.


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