Data lakes and ecosystems: habitat for an evolving breed of data centres
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Data lakes and ecosystems: habitat for an evolving breed of data centres

Jerome Totel Data4 (3.5.23).jpg
Jérôme Totel

A data-driven approach is growing ever more crucial to make the most of today’s data centre market. Jérôme Totel, group strategy and innovation director at Paris-headquartered European data-centre provider Data4, talks about how this is evolving at his company, creating a pathway to the software-defined data centre of the future.

Talk to anyone in the telecoms industry and they will invariably tell you that harnessing lessons from data is central to getting ahead in the modern market.

With a multitude of sensors being introduced all the time, opportunities for doing this are everywhere you look in today’s data centres. But much room remains to optimise data use to create the sustainable facility of the future, says Jérôme Totel, group strategy and innovation director at Paris-headquartered European data-centre provider Data4.

Key to this is digitalising assets by putting a central focus on the concept of the “software-defined data centre”, he says. That involves finding ways to consolidate the data, aided by integrated and interconnected tools. The ideal final outcome is real-time insight into the end-to-end lifecycle of facilities and services delivered to customers, allowing players to then use the information to push their business forward.

“Digital needs are growing, and we’re using more data and more applications every day,” says Totel. “When you digitalise your assets, you’re able to understand things like the main challenges you need to address to reduce your environmental impact. If you do not do this, it’s much more difficult.”

Data-harnessing tools

His own company, Data4, has sought to take a lead here by adopting a strongly data-centric approach over the past few years. This strategy has involved the development of integrated software tools to aggregate data from different processes and systems, while interacting and exchanging information with each other. The aim is to give customers wide and remotely accessible visibility on operational indicators.

Each of the company’s data centres, for example, has a building management system (BMS), comprising software that allows supervision of infrastructure to enable a rapid response in the event of incidents. Alongside this monitoring system, Data4 created a data lake to store all data coming from the BMS and various other software. The company is also deploying AI-driven software on top to boost insight from that data and improve efficiency.

“The aim is to use data as much as possible,” says Totel. “This is helped by having the ability to collect the data from the BMS platforms and different systems in a dedicated data lake, and adding intelligent capabilities via an AI solution on top. This is now possible because we started a journey to digitalise all our assets several years ago.”

A range of other software includes tools for management of data centre assets, such as racks and hosting space, as well as the services of customers and maintenance systems. To tie its services together in a one-stop-shop that supports the intelligent data centre, Data4 has a dedicated customer portal that allows customers to manage all their operations and view key indicators.

Totel says that enabling players in the data centre to gain real-time visibility on their assets is crucial, allowing them to keep track of things like temperature and energy consumption, the functioning of all their equipment, incidents, changes, service requests and indicators about environmental impact.

Insight and efficiency

With so many sensors in data centres nowadays, there’s also much that can be done with these to improve the efficiency of operations. “Some of these sensors are very important, like temperature sensors in the IT room; some are simpler, such as knowing if a door is open or not,” says Totel. “But sensors are really useful from a historical-data point of view.”

They’re crucial from an environmental perspective too, for helping to pinpoint trends in things like energy and water consumption, use of raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions. “With our tools, we’re able to show customers where the big figures are that can be improved on the environmental side,” says Totel. “Is it on their servers? Is it on their storage equipment?”

As one of the biggest concerns in today’s data centre market, this is something on which Data4 places a major emphasis, helping customers understand all the key environmental KPIs. For instance, the company provides an easy-to-use Green Dashboard calculator embedded into its customer portal to enable customers to work out their environmental footprint.

But Totel highlights that maximising the use of data requires careful planning. “You can optimise everything, including operations, costs and environmental factors,” he says. “But to do that, you need to do three other steps first – namely, modelling, visualising and then operating the solutions you want to use.”

With all its activities in this area, Data4 is also able to optimise its own internal processes – coming in key as it pursues expansion. The company now has 31 data centres across Europe, with recent developments including the announcement of major investment in Germany to add to its presence in France, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain and Poland.

For the market as a whole, Totel emphasises the need to keep making efficiency upgrades on a continuous basis. “It’s important to make every small improvement in the roadmap because several minor improvements will lead to a major improvement,” he says. “We cannot wait just for the bigger changes in technology, as things like climate change are a reality right now.”

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