The data center industry is experiencing unprecedented growth. There is currently 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day, and this pace is accelerating with the emergence of the IoT. By the year 2020, the IoT will comprise more than 30 billion connected devices. 

But the market has not, by any means, reached its full capacity.

The global rollout of 5G, the next-generation mobile protocol, will put the growth of digital data into overdrive, with firms like Cisco predicting we will soon enter the “mobile zettabyte era.” Cisco’s report, Mobile Visual Networking Index, projects that the average smartphone will generate 11 GB of mobile traffic per month in 2022, compared to 2 GB per month in 2017.

This demand for data will require even greater energy management and operational efficiencies for data centers of the future.

Traditional data center environments are under constant pressure, as demand grows for greater flexibility, security, and visibility, with many data centers operating across several geographic borders within different time zones and territories. 

As traditional analog electrical systems come under increasing strain, together with the growth of robotics and greater use of AI, complexities for IT managers and consultants become more intricate.

And yet, through our customer conversations, we are seeing that there are still very few managers who realize the advantages digitalization can offer in reducing the complexity to navigate the new data highways — even when the industry is clearly moving away from on-premise services toward a more software-driven control and cloud-based infrastructure.

Breaking down the barriers

As complexity grows, simplicity, automation, and versatility are key drivers in managing the data center environment. Analyst house Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data center versus 10% today.


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Reducing the number of control layers, doing more at a local level (autonomously, if possible), and reducing latency are critical outcomes for the next-generation data center.

It is therefore essential that today’s data centers and major system solutions are designed with elasticity in mind from concept and design to installation, control, and management.

Elasticity provides the ability for infrastructures and networks to grow or shrink dynamically as needed, adapting to workloads and maximizing the use of resources. This can result in savings on infrastructure costs overall.

As such, digitalization enables this elastic infrastructure, which means operators can do more with their assets because better control leads to better utilization, with maximum uptime and information being made available through platforms such as ABB Ability™.

Digitalization reduces the number of wires, provides faster delivery, and reduces space requirements as the number of cabinets is reduced through robust IEC 61850 digital communications. Data center clients have achieved up to 25% savings in installation and commissioning costs while experiencing improved resilience and savings in energy and CO2 emissions.

So, how has this been achieved?

Digital communication and peer-to-peer control reduces the need for multiple linear control layers from circuit breakers through to the switchgear and building management system (BMS), toward the data center infrastructure management (DCIM) modules, moving up the hierarchy.

Digitalization eases pressure on the hierarchy. It provides north-to-south and east-to-west directional controls and communications between peer-to-peer components.

This peer-to-peer architecture of digital systems provides data center managers and operators access to best-practice benchmarking and deeper, granular visibility of cross-industry data.

With better insight into disparate systems, these scalable systems, along with features such as advanced power analytics and intelligent alarm and event handling, deliver greater operational transparency at both the device and enterprise levels. Potential issues are identified and resolved before they can cause significant damage or downtime.


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At one of America’s leading car manufacturers based in Texas, its fully automated manufacturing plant has more than 10,000 alarms per day. The adoption of platforms like ABB Ability has enabled data center teams at similar plants to prioritize and turn data into actionable insight through peer-to-peer communication. The system is self-regulating and can even be self-mending — significantly reducing the number of alarms. When there is something the system cannot fix itself, instead of telling the operator there is a problem, the system tells the operator how to fix the problem.

By using diagnostics, alarms, and event setting, data center teams can proactively report and accurately pinpoint issues, thereby reducing the risk of exposure due to human error and further enhancing on-site safety.

As dependence on data centers grows, so too does the need for protection against cybersecurity threats within the data center itself. The adoption of smart digitalization can help operators proactively monitor and control the system to detect and deter threats across the full spectrum of the data center.

Digitalization platforms for on-premise and hybrid cloud environments provide the possibility of converging both IT and OT through a single pane of glass. This offers complete transparency and interoperability for continuous optimization and high availability.

Whatever challenges data center operations may be facing today, digitalization breaks down the parameters set within legacy systems. It navigates the digital divide and overrides the obstacles of complex data architecture to keep data flowing and create the elasticity needed to cope with the ever-increasing demands of this data-hungry world.