“The fast march towards 5G across the region has allowed IT leads to modernize their own infrastructures, incorporating new initiatives such as edge computing into their estates” – Mohammed Atif – Director of Business Development at Park Place Technologies

  1. Mohammed Atif - Director of Business Development at Park Place TechnologiesWhat are some strategies that are helping companies to overcome the challenges associated with connectivity in digital architecture?

Digitally enabled architectures are, by their very nature, fed by fast streams of constant data sets and applications. They are often complex architectures derived from different systems, locations, and platforms, but universally, they require superfast connectivity and access as their backbone to deliver competitive edge and seamless data flow. Different approaches to maintaining access to data can be adopted digitally, but leading global research and analytics company, McKinsey¹, recommends using a mix of tech for building foundations to ensure long-term agility and scalability. Top of their list is to leverage cloud computing to alleviate connectivity challenges for data and apps, as, in a cloud enabled world, any internet connection allows for immediate access.  Likewise, IoT connected devices allow companies to exchange data and communicate directly between enabled devices. For remote users, many companies have adopted VPNs to allow secure, private, and reliable access to networks.  Lastly, McKinsey makes a compelling case for edge adoption, as devices located using edge computing create fewer connectivity demands as data is processed locally, often close to the point of usage, thereby reducing the amount of data to be transferred on the network.

¹How to build a data architecture to drive innovation—today and tomorrow | McKinsey

  1. What are the various redundancy measures that can be put into place to lessen the likelihood of downtime and data loss?

These days, few organizations tolerate business downtime, and fewer still accept the possibility of data loss as this brings with it the chance of data leakage, corporate liability, compliance breaches and considerable damage to the brand. As regulations have tightened and publicity increased, countries in APAC have become increasingly sensitive to the loss of reputation caused through data loss. Consider Optus, Medibank, and Latitude Financial in Australia in the last 6 months alone, where millions of customer records have been compromised. Of course, data loss isn’t new, and neither are system outages that can seriously disrupt business operations. To combat both, organizations have long added extra layers of redundancy to avoid single points of failure from redundant network connections. These redundant nodes sit in a constant state of standby. RAID arrays housed within hardware are designed this way, meaning that if one disk fails, data is retrieved from another without any data loss. Clustering of multiple servers also operates with the same seamless rollover principles. Additionally, all organizations should deploy reliable backup and recovery tools, featuring immutable data protection for complete piece of mind as an essential final safeguard. For protection against downtime through loss of power on physical hardware devices, the usage of battery backups (UPS’) and redundant power supplies ensures that critical apps can keep flowing.

  1. How have businesses integrated automation to improve the efficiency of their data centers?

When companies have been able to automate former repetitive, resource intensive tasks such as backup routines or software patching, they result in long-term improvement efficiencies; increases in productivity, and greater predictability across the health of the IT estate. Automation tools are increasingly used to monitor health and performance of network assets within data centers. Likewise, trusted TPM partners can use their automation platfoms to offer holistic service monitoring to ensure optimal running of assets remotely. Such monitoring and asset reporting offers the chance for predictive maintenance on long-term health to reduce potential issues and possible downtime from failures. Automation can also positively impact workflow tasks such as patching, alongside provisioning of new assets and infrastructures.

From a data center staff productivity perspective, automation frees highly skilled staff to focus on higher level tasks and digital development opportunities, as opposed to being sucked into a cycle of routine management and maintenance.

  1. What are edge data centers and why are they essential for 5G?

Edge data centers are sometimes considered as mini data centers located in areas of high customer usage and have gained increasing popularity as 5G rollouts have occurred at pace across APAC (with APAC set to be the leading regional global adaptor of 5G by 2025²). Essentially edge data centers take compute, processing, storage, and application delivery physically closer to the location of their 5G users, for speed and performance and to support the significant amounts of data that 5G usage creates. Because edge data centers process and analyze resultant data far closer to the proximity of the end user, they offer reduced latency and can handle peaks far better while offering the all-essential blistering response times expected from 5G usage.  As the most modern design template for data centers, edge data centers have the benefit of being designed with redundancy, robust security, and lower power requirements from the ground up.

² GSMA | GSMA Sets Out 5G Roadmap for Asia Pacific – Newsroom

  1. How are 5G and new methods of connectivity impacting modernization efforts of data centers?

The fast march towards 5G across the region has allowed IT leads to modernize their own infrastructures, incorporating new initiatives such as edge computing into their estates. Here, the resultant increased connectivity and higher bandwidth of 5G wireless networks means faster data transfer rates. This in turn has allowed increase of automation and the acceptance and growth of IoT devices to give increased functionality and connectivity. Virtualization – or the pooling of servers and storage, has also been expanded from the 5G rollout, not just from the provision of virtual servers, but also to expand to use-once open-source storage containers that are serving the growth of DevOps. By default, increased 5G connectivity means that data centers have become more agile, capable, efficient, and responsive with data processing times dramatically improved.

  1. What is the impact of cloud computing on the data center?

There are few technology innovations that can truly be classified as revolutionary, but the advent of cloud computing certainly falls into this category, totally re-inventing the way that data center Leads design, manage, and operate their IT functions. Cloud adoption has essentially meant that the traditional data center – offering centralised data processing at its core – has been totally transformed. But whilst cloud adoption has emerged far faster than other generations of tech, its fore runner was set years before with the concept of data center virtualization – opening the options as to what shared services could deliver uncoupled from physical servers and processing points – and thereby reducing the amount of hardware needed in a data center. Impressive reductions when data processed continues to double every two years³.

Post global lockdowns, cloud computing continues to transform every aspect of the data center – from procurement methods to usage to delivery. It’s allowed automation of routine tasks; flexibility and scale depending on actual usage requirements (vs anticipated requirements); and eliminated single points of failures with service level redundancy. It’s allowed digital innovation across all sizes of data center and is so cost effective in eliminating large scale hardware investments, that former enterprise level capabilities can now be delivered to SMBs on attractive pay-as-you-go OPEX plans.

³ What Is Moore’s Law and Is It Still True? (investopedia.com)

  1. Currently, sustainability is a key focus for the industry. What new technologies are assisting in making data centers greener and sustainable?

Sustainability is taking an increasingly high profile in governments and compliant organisations within the APAC region. Data centers are established power guzzlers – over 1% of total energy power consumption emitting from data centers. Whilst our European counterparts are surging ahead with unified adoption of greener power sources, greater country diversity in APAC has left a mixed picture for data center sustainability initiatives. Much more can be achieved and needs pressing attention to allow adherence to the Paris Agreement’s global climate change goals. APACs carbon footprint can, and is, being lowered with a variety of green IT initiatives. The first is greater adoption of renewable sources including solar and wind.5 Singapore, for instance, is upping its investment in solar cell capabilities seven-fold to help fuel its vast data center vertical6. Wind powered energy farms and hydro-electric sources are also increasing regionally. Locally, data centers themselves have also been looking inwardly at making efficiencies, by taking simple steps such as investing in lower-powered CPUs with hardware or liquid cooling alternatives. Usage allows data centers to absorb heat from the hardware and then redistribute it for cooling. Waste heat recovery systems are also gaining increasing popularity, capturing heat generated from data center hardware to generate electricity that will heat – or cool – nearby buildings.

5Riding the Renewables Wave in Asia-Pacific (bcg.com)

6Cracking the green conundrum in Singapore, amid a data center moratorium – DCD (datacenterdynamics.com)

  1. What are some critical upgrades that firms need to implement if energy efficiency is a priority?

As with all significant behavioral and usage shifts, organizations need first to be encouraged and incentivized to change energy efficiency behaviors with rewards and clear government guidance. Much is determined by an individual countries’ adoption and access to renewable energy sources. Yet there is plenty that data centers can do themselves to adopt greater energy efficiencies, learning and optimizing from regions and companies that have achieved carbon-cutting successes. There are several outlined examples – with adoption of cloud computing and virtualization as one of the fastest ways to decrease energy consumption from the physical server and storage footprint. Internally for the remaining hardware required in the data center, IT Leads need to implement upgrades in cooling systems, considering options such as hot and cold aisle containment to decrease/increase ambient temperatures with minimal overhead. Even in smaller server rooms, data center leads need to select energy efficient hardware as a top procurement priority over price and functionality.

(The views expressed in this interview are by – Mohammed Atif – Director of Business Development at Park Place Technologies. Technuter.com doesn’t own any responsibility for it.)

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