Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that has the potential to transform the way enterprises, governments, and consumers exchange data. By eliminating the need for a central authority, blockchain technology simplifies transactions, mitigates transaction risk, and increases both efficiency and transparency. According to a report by Transparency Market Research, the global blockchain technology market is projected to rise to $20 billion by 2024, up from $315.9 million in 2015.
There are a number of different industries taking a serious look at blockchain to improve transparency and trust amongst internal or external entities, including financial services, health care, retail, supply chain and logistics, and media and entertainment. The technology holds great promise to support and enable visibility across diverse markets through the ledger, its settlement mechanisms, and smart contract protocols. However, the one area that tends to not receive a lot of attention is the requirements of data centers to support blockchain infrastructure, especially in view of the continuous demand from transaction settlements.
When enterprises look at the realities of developing a blockchain-based ledger, it’s necessary to begin with the fundamental decision on where they want that information to reside. In various situations, a private blockchain will have to exist on the premises whether because of the importance or sensitive nature of the data, compliance and regulatory requirements, or issues of latency. In these cases, the data center manager will have to craft a data center service that will meet the requirements of proof-of work (PoW), which includes power and thermal demands. Blockchain’s intense processing requires considerable power and cooling because it relies on high-density servers, which run hotter than traditional servers.
Unfortunately, because of the lack of real-time monitoring, data center managers usually have to pad the requirements to ensure they don’t come up short. An effective way to avoid overprovisioning and/or incorrectly reading the blockchain’s demand for power and cooling without impacting processing or settlement is to implement a data center management solution. These software solutions provide accurate, real-time power, thermal, and health monitoring/management for individual servers, groups of servers, racks, and IT equipment.
One of the major challenges that data center operators in blockchain computing environments face is that they are not fully aware of the platform technologies already available to them. Today’s data center technologies are equipped to monitor and handle large workloads, allow for visibility and control over servers, and optimize both power and cooling in real time. Component-level, real-time power, health, and thermal data is invaluable to managing the demands of any computing environment.
The thermal design of traditional data centers can lead to hot spots, and blockchain environments pose even greater liabilities given the heat produced by continuous processing. Faced with this set of circumstances, a lack of visibility into actual device power consumption may lead data center managers to overprovision and drive energy usage well beyond the levels needed to maintain safe cooling margins. Data center management solutions allow IT staff to reduce cooling costs by safely raising the temperature of the room. This improves power usage effectiveness (PUE) and energy efficiency.
Efficient space and power capacity management is an essential part of operating data centers. Data center management tools support multiple power measurement and controls protocols required by different OEMs to deliver power statistics for every rack and server model without the need for additional hardware or software. As blockchain computing environments experience periodic upticks in demand from transaction settlements, this capability will enable IT staff to increase rack densities rather than adding new ones.
Blockchain has the potential to advance asset and data exchange for economic and social systems worldwide. Indeed, according to a 2017 report by Gartner, blockchain will be “transformational” across a variety of industries within the next five to 10 years. That said, to witness the emergence of blockchain-based, cryptocurrency-focused data centers in India and China, as well as the increasing investments in blockchain by blue-chip U.S. companies, this technology may well see widespread adoption sooner than anticipated. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Google are actively investing in blockchain firms. And technologists are presently exploring the power of blockchain to create decentralized clouds.
Forward-looking CIOs, CTOs, and data center managers in their charge will need to prepare their facilities and infrastructure to accommodate blockchain technology, specifically the need for sound capacity management and planning as well as increased power and cooling requirements. Spreadsheet-style asset management simply won’t allow blockchain technologies, which require significantly increased cooling and power, to run and scale safely. Fortunately, there already exists a set of intelligent tools in the form of data center management solutions that can overcome these challenges and assist organizations to realize blockchain technology’s full potential.