There’s no shortage of challenges when managing data centers; from environmental concerns to shifting budgets and rising densities.
Facility managers are regularly having to make decisions on how to adapt their sites to minimize the effects of these on performance. Before we explore how they can do this effectively, let’s first consider the key challenges in greater detail.
With data centers already reportedly using one percent of global energy demand, there’s pressure on operations teams to run sites more efficiently and drive the best performance from their equipment.
This pressure has been exacerbated by the UK committing to carbon zero data centers by 2050 during last year’s COP26 conference. These political, environmental commitments will guarantee that making facilities greener will continue to be top priority for center owners and managers in the coming years and decades.
The price of running a data center
What’s more, the costs of running a data center are going up. The price of energy is rapidly growing due to the current energy crisis and this is impacting everyone, including data center owners.
In response, they’ll be placing increasing importance on operations teams running their facilities more energy efficiently to prevent the cost becoming prohibitive to the facility being financially viable.
Another challenge managers are now grappling with is the impressive new levels of density that can be achieved with modern technology such as artificial intelligence (AI); densities that would have been unimaginable 10 years ago.
Accommodating variations in densities – for example, caused by one zone hosting web traffic with its low density, while another manages AI – is problematic for older data centers.
Older facilities may have been designed to meet the overall power density required across the facility. however, they won’t have designed for significant differences between zones, racks and servers. Consequently, managers have more factors to juggle and management silos to contend with.
Simulation as the solution
With these new changes and challenges, how can data center operations teams stay one step ahead whilst improving the performance of their sites?
Physics-based simulation using a data center digital twin is a key solution. A digital twin is a 3D, virtual copy of a physical data center.
A digital twin uses computation fluid dynamics (CFD) to simulate the facilities’ behavior under any operating condition or scenario. This means managers can trial changes that would help them combat challenges in a safe environment before they enact them in the physical site.
Simulating the best facility layout
For example, deploying a data center digital twin enables managers to holistically visualize the layout of their facilities and safely discover the most effective and energy-efficient placement of cooling systems and new high-density servers.
This ensures they can maintain the performance of the data center under pressures from new technologies, run the site more greenly, and protect against rising energy costs.
To give a more specific example, one of the world’s largest aerospace companies deployed digital twin technology to virtually experiment on the best layout to maximize the efficiency and performance of their sites.
This resulted in an increased site performance of 30-40 percent as well as a decrease in one of their data center’s PUE from 4 to 1.6.
Extending the lifespan of a data center
Data center managers can also extend the lifespan of their sites by using a digital twin to maximize capacity, optimize space utilization and redistribute stranded power.
Black & Veatch, for example, has done this for a client; running modelling scenarios to determine the most effective configuration for mechanical systems performance. This delayed the need to build a new center, with its associated financial and environmental costs, until absolutely necessary.
Future-proofing data centers with simulation
By deploying a digital twin, data center operations teams are empowered to make proactive and accurate decisions about their sites, using science over guesswork.
With this technology in place, they can not only ensure performance, but meet green requirements, reduce costs, and handle the pressures created by rising densities.
As new challenges continue to emerge in the future, data center digital twins will give managers the ability to retain control and support the abundance of businesses that rely on them to operate effectively.
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Computational fluid dynamics can provide insights into data center performance that monitoring alone can never achieve, argues Future Facilities’ Dave King