With the start of 2017, it’s an apt time to look at the current state of the data center and the future of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) while prognosticating what we can expect for the coming year. We’ve witnessed some major events in 2016, many of them — the good, bad and the ugly — portentous. So, let’s survey the industry and make a few humble predictions.

Covering Your DRaaS In 2017

In 2016, a study by the Ponemon Institute put the average cost of a single data center outage at approximately $730,000. Against that figure, it’s interesting to note that the Delta Airlines data center outage that grounded more than 2,000 flights over the span of three days last August cost the company more than twice that amount. Meanwhile, another outage at a Southwest Airlines’ facility in July was estimated to cost at least $177 million in lost passenger revenue.

The airline industry was not alone. Pokémon GO, the gaming phenomenon that launched in July, was so popular that its servers were continuously crashing due to the traffic overload, especially during peak play times.

In view of these incidents, the need for a disaster recovery plan has become top-of-mind for the enterprise. In 2017, hybrid-infrastructure Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) will become commonplace within the enterprise, giving IT the flexibility to store critical data in an on-site appliance and manage other backups in the cloud. The goal is to avoid the pitfalls that Delta, Southwest, and Pokémon GO unfortunately experienced.

DRaaS, moving more mainstream, is impacting service level and infrastructure monitoring to provide an understanding of what and when to move in times of crisis. This monitoring data, enabled by DCIM, is proving useful to both the consumer and the provider because it helps validate and define what is the expected operational state. The objective of a DCIM-supported DRaaS plan is to mitigate downtime and increase response time. Almost a fourth of data centers using DCIM for capacity planning and forecasting report that they could recover from an outage within two hours, compared to only 11% of those that do without.  

Green Data Centers Are The New ‘It Girl’ Of IT

While our personal and professional lives become increasingly hyperconnected, enterprises’ reliance on data centers has simultaneously skyrocketed. As a result, organizations with healthy IT budgets and company-wide, green initiatives will feel more corporate responsibility toward implementing cutting-edge technologies and techniques, making data centers more energy-efficient than ever.

Why is a green strategy so important in today’s business ecosystem, becoming the darling du jour of the C-suite? To tweak a phrase from a bygone political campaign, ‘It’s the planet, stupid.’

Data centers consume an enormous amount of energy. Last year, to use but one example, Google’s data centers consumed as much energy as the city of San Francisco. Worldwide, data centers consume approximately 3% of the global electricity supply and account for 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions. That gives the data center industry the same carbon footprint as the airline industry.

While two percent may not seem like a lot, this energy consumption is predicted to triple over the next decade with a concomitant, deleterious effect on poor Mother Nature.

There is evidence of increasing awareness and responsibility across the enterprise space with respect to rampant data center energy consumption. Witness Facebook’s Luleå facility in northern Sweden, which, because of its access to renewable energy and a cold climate that is useful for keeping servers cool, will become one of the most energy-efficient data centers ever built.

Meanwhile, Microsoft recently announced its plan to increase the amount of wind, solar and hydropower energy use in its data centers to 60% by 2018.

This is great news, but what if your data center isn’t located in far northern climates or in proximity to a wind or hydro farm? What trends will we see to make data centers greener?

Increasingly, data center operators will implement green strategies in their existing facilities that will greatly reduce energy consumption and cooling expenditures. Using DCIM to boost airflow management, they will reduce energy consumption by 40%, and by implementing innovative cooling technologies, use up to 95% less energy.

Runaway energy consumption, more data center operators will realize, can be effectively combated with DCIM’s combination of micro-level controls for individual servers, power distribution units, airflow controllers, and cooling units, as well as macro-level controls and policies for racks of servers and entire data centers. With the potential for immediate ROI, the world’s largest data centers will embrace not only the business case, but also the social and environmental responsibility of controlling energy usage.

Data Center Operators And The C-Suite Will Learn To Play Nice In The Enterprise Box

In recent years, C-suite executives and IT professionals have butted heads over the ownership of the data center, with the former focused on the ledger sheet and the latter on minute data. In 2017, as operational efficiencies and bottom line metrics become increasingly important to financial and operational overlords, we’ll begin to see the C-suite and IT team learn to speak the same language to meet shared business goals.

How will this be accomplished?

DCIM products combine IT and building facilities functions to provide engineers and administrators with a holistic view of a data center’s performance to ensure that energy, equipment, and floor space are used as efficiently as possible. In doing so, DCIM integrates data from tools that have traditionally been siloed within facilities and IT environments. In 2017, CIOs and CFOs alike will realize that it’s this holistic, real-time visibility that unlocks the door to greater ROI.

Last year’s C-suite may argue that it’s too expensive. This year, however, members of the C-suite will realize that DCIM can cut operating expenses for companies by as much as 20% or more.

Keep in mind, I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do predict that when it comes to DCIM’s ability to prevent infrastructure failures, provide advanced thermal management, lower cooling costs and improve overall energy efficiency, both the C-suite and data center manager will see the writing on the wall.