A digitized data center future begins with dimming the lights. That means less people on-site, thanks to connected critical infrastructure, data center expertise, and powerful analytics. One day, robots, sensors, and self-healing systems may enable a total lights-out environment. Until then, humans will use innovative technology to reduce risk and improve efficiency in all areas.

What is a Digital Data Center?

Digital and data center may seem redundant; however, data center managers are still operating some of today’s most complex facilities by walking around with a clipboard, paper, and pen, recording information. This manual process requires large numbers of people working on-site in order to respond to potential problems. A truly digital data center is instrumented, connected, integrated, and automated on multiple levels, which equates to a smaller on-site staff.

A digital data center is smart enough to know when equipment needs maintenance rather than relying on expensive, scheduled service plans. It’s also enhanced by augmented reality, where those with entry-level skill sets can use virtual reality goggles to perform maintenance basics. Still, when considering a digital data center, it’s important to think past assets like UPSs, CRACs, and generators. The human element — its contribution to uptime and downtime — can’t be overlooked. 

In a digital data center, intelligent technology eliminates silos by weaving together gray space, white space, people, processes, and systems to reduce human error, increase efficiency, and, ultimately, lower the total cost of operations. Digitization can also play a part in mitigating the impact of things, such as tribal knowledge, training cycle time, payroll cost pressures, and labor shortages. It’s about getting people actionable insight quickly and easily, so they can make faster, data-driven decisions in a more cost-effective manner.

Five Steps to a Digital Data Center

International Data Corp. (IDC) predicts that by 2022, 50% of all IT assets in data centers will run autonomously because of embedded AI functionality. The following five steps will lead data center operators down this very short journey to their futures.

  1. Evaluate. Take a look at the infrastructure. Most data centers are burdened with older and potentially outdated equipment. Even if it’s working, the ability to monitor natively may be missing. If you can’t instrument it, you can’t connect it. And if you can’t connect it, you can’t become a digital data center. Also, review people and processes. Which everyday activities should be digitized? This is a critical piece for optimization.
  2. Connect everything possible. Connect more data center infrastructure and integrate multiple products and systems. Utilize condition monitoring software, which allows IoT equipment to self-diagnose and alert operators when servicing is needed.
  3. Aggregate the data. Combine the machine and human data that is being collected. The human data must come from a rigorous standardized process. Create a large digital data lake from which you can pull information to make decisions.
  4. Analyze the data. Humans excel at judging, creating, and strategizing. Machines are better at transaction-based processing, iteration, prediction, and adaption. Bring together humans and machines aided by AI. Ask questions, like What does the data mean? Do anomalies exist? What are the next steps? 
  5. Act. Create a plan based on the analysis regarding whether or not to upgrade or replace. Determine if new compute power is needed. Data-informed decisions will secure funding and lead to the development of the right procedures, schedules, and tactics.


Lower meantime to repair, reduce downtime, increase efficiency, lessen operating expenditure — these are practically data center mantras. But in a digital data center, they come to life, and the result is real savings on the bottom line.

Schneider Electric’s work in this area with an enterprise customer recently resulted in a 15% gain in task efficiency over 12 months. In another case, a very large customer — one whose data center touches most people each day — went from capturing data in three-ring binders to digital operations that include software-driven maintenance operating procedures/standard operating procedures, customized dashboards, historical records, and performance transparency.

The future of the data center lies in standardized, digital operations of both central and edge compute environments. It’s not just about gray space, white space, or off-site computing. The digital data center is one big ecosystem of people and processes that are harmonized through intelligent technology.