Why IoT will disrupt data centers

IoT will force data center operators to completely rethink the way they manage capacity across the IT stack.

Sanjay Motwani Jan 27th 2017

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most significant game changers in the field of Information Technology (IT) since Cloud computing and is poised to revolutionize the industry. International Data Corporation (IDC) defines the IoT as a network of networks of uniquely identifiable endpoints (or “things”) that communicate without human interaction using Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity. By 2020, IoT will grow faster than any category of devices, according to a Cisco report. Consider these stats: By 2020, there will be 4.1 billion internet users globally and 26.3 billion networked devices and connections. The devices are projected to generate 15.3 zettabytes per year in global data center (DC) traffic, leading to a 3.3x surge in global DC traffic. About 92% of the DC traffic will come from the Cloud. Many IoT devices will soon have powerful embedded smart chips that can handle processing equivalent to today’s laptops and smartphones.        

Increasingly, several enterprises and vendors have embraced IoT and the revenue generated from IoT products and services is expected to exceed $300 billion by 2020. As connectivity across the globe increases, data is truly the Next Big Thing. IoT will force data centre operators to completely rethink the way they manage capacity across the IT stack. IDC predicts that by the end of 2020, 212 billion “things” will be connected. The enormous number of devices, coupled with the sheer volume and structure of IoT data will create a lot of challenges for data center managers, particularly in the areas of security, data, storage management, servers and the data center network as real-time business processes are at stake.

Impact of IoT on data centers

IoT will not just transform the data centers, but also radically change the customer experience, technologies and sales and marketing models. IoT will have a major transformational effect on data centers because the billions of “things” will generate large quantities of data that need to be processed and analysed in real time. Without proper planning and augmentation, processing mammoth data in real time can considerably increase the workloads of data centers.

Challenges of IoT

Security & Privacy: The increasing deployment of devices will also increase the security complexity. If the data is not secured properly, even a small breach could lead to devastating consequences. Security and privacy are going to be the key in the deployment of IoT devices as information generated by IoT devices will be the key to improving products and services by enterprises through the management of such devices.

Storage Management & Capacity Planning: IoT will place a significant demand on storage capacity because of the large amount of data and will impact the existing data center infrastructure. If the organizations want to reap the benefits of IoT, then they will also need to think about how they can use the data stored there in a cost-effective manner. The dynamic nature of the IoT data will pressure the DC manager to work on capacity planning as it will also impact the availability of systems.

Data: Organizations and individuals continue to use apps and devices for multiple uses. Thus, IoT will have an impact on two major types of data: Personal data and Enterprise data. Organizations strive to understand the end-user through multiple apps and mobile & desktop devices. Besides, with a huge number of users trying to access the same data or files at the same time will put additional pressure on the infrastructure, besides upping the demand on power and cooling systems.

Server Technologies: Today’s data center has evolved with new technologies such as cloud computing, virtualization, and software-defined networks. The primary impact of IoT on server technologies will be increased investments in this area. 

Data center network: The Wide Area Networks (WAN) are sized only for moderate bandwidth requirements and for human interactions. IoT will drastically alter this as the devices will need to send bulk data from multiple sensors to the data center for processing. Hence, data centers will need to increase its bandwidth requirements exponentially.

Computing Resources: IoT environments will require extensive access control and monitoring applications. Distributed computing may transition some processing away from data centers, while companies managing a large number of devices may have to set up server cabinets, which will run on cloud infrastructure.        

How IoT concerns of data centers can be addressed

With IoT devices placing extraordinary demand on network infrastructure, data centers are today under tremendous pressure to reliably and efficiently deliver services and also be more responsive in terms of scale and flexibility. Demands on power and cooling systems are not far behind. So what can data center managers do? There are two major solutions:

Hyper scaling using 3-phase power: Over the past few years, the average power consumption per server has increased rapidly from 2kW to 12kW and upwards. Managers can deliver more power by deploying rack power distribution units (PDUs) capable of supplying multiple circuits, higher voltages and higher currents.

Optimizing existing infrastructure of data centers: Many organizations rely on Excel spreadsheets and manual analysis to find out their current capacity/power/space utilization, remaining capacity and/or is there a better way to utilize the capacity. DC managers will need intelligent and automated planning tools that can help one understand the dynamic needs, power requirements, cooling and network resources. Managers should rely on Intelligent Power Distribution Units (iPDU), which will help to monitor energy and cooling levels and keep an eye on the overall health of the data center.

The author is Regional Director, APAC at Raritan 

Disclaimer: This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the contributing authors and not of IDG Media and its editor(s).