The transformative potential of AI technology is being increasingly recognised by the data centre industry. In fact, it is widely anticipated to be one of the industry’s biggest areas of investment over the next few years.
According to a recent report published by CoreSite - Artificial Intelligence: Charting the Way Forward for AI: 2022 Survey of IT Leaders and Service Providers on AI Deployment - AI usage is expected to accelerate rapidly.
In fact, researchers found that, over the next five years, a staggering 82% of respondents expect their company’s use of AI to increase. What’s more, no respondents anticipated that their company’s use of AI or ML would decrease.
Within the report, two of the leading benefits for service providers of using AI - as selected by respondents - were improving customer experience (CX) and limiting churn (40%), and driving innovation and revenue for new business (37%).
So, how can we expect to see those benefits realised in the context of the data centre industry?
The era of the intelligent data centre
In order to successfully accomodate the rise of AI, big data, IoT, robotics and the metaverse, the world’s data centres are being required to expand at a phenomenal pace.
“We need to start replacing traditional computing power with intelligent computing power to handle modern computing scenarios,” urges Liu Jun, Vice President and GM of AI and HPC at Inspur Information.
“With the acceleration of global digital transformation and the development of the digital economy, optimising and upgrading digital infrastructure and building new data centres is not only vital, but inevitable. The digital economy is creating brand-new application scenarios that need more adaptive, efficient, and green data centres.”
Ironically, AI is proving to be a pivotal solution to the challenge that it itself raises. In everything from onboarding talent to improving operational efficiency, AI is advancing data centre capabilities across the board.
“Traditional general-purpose computing will have its place, but intelligent computing power will develop faster, and it will account for an ever-increasing proportion of total computing power in the future. This represents a fundamental change in the data centre concept. It’s now the era of the intelligent data centre,” Jun outlines.
The concept of the intelligent data centre represents higher standards of performance and greater efficiency gains, which leads to more opportunities for innovation, better services, and sustainable technologies.
“The core idea of the intelligent data centre is that AI is dramatically more power intensive, requiring infrastructure specifically equipped to handle this high performance. That performance is best achieved with rack-scale architecture, which separates compute, storage, and network resources within a rack to be easily managed by APIs for ideal resource utilisation and infinite scalability,” Jun explains.
“It represents the full integration of hardware, applications, and algorithms working together, and is a complete rethink of how the data centre is operated and managed for maximum efficiency and peak performance.”
Supporting sustainability drives
The CoreSite report demonstrated the exceptional value of deploying AI solutions, in terms of improving the quality, consistency and variety of data centre services, enabling sites to operate more cost efficiently, and thereby significantly boost CX. In fact, the report drew a clear parallel between implementing AI and improving customer retention metrics.
Two of the primary ways in which AI is driving these successes in data centres are fostering sustainability drives, and resolving the threat of the talent shortage.
Although the world’s data demands show no sign of slowing, data centres are coming under increasing scrutiny. It is no longer sufficient to continue meeting demand - providers need to do so in a way that is sustainable. Otherwise, their customer retention figures will quickly plummet.
That’s where AI comes in.
“The intelligent data centre is about being smart and maximising computing resources; it’s also about going green,” says Jun.
“It provides high-quality and high-efficiency computing power that is proportionally much higher than traditional data centres, but also focuses on reducing carbon emissions and reducing energy consumption. It’s the balance needed for our digital future and our digital economy.”
DE&I and future-proofing the industry
According to research undertaken by Equinix, 62% of global IT decision-makers see a shortage of personnel with IT skills as one of the primary threats to their business.
“Talent is one of the biggest struggles for data centres, whether that involves attracting new team members or retaining existing colleagues,” explains Mick Lane, the Global Technology Solutions Manager at CBRE.
As such, the entire industry is eagerly anticipating the advancement of AI recruitment technologies.
And, beyond simply making manual tasks like CV scanning more efficient, AI is being deployed in data centre recruitment in extremely sophisticated, pioneering ways.
Taking one example of CBRE’s approach, Lane explains how the company deploys AI in data centre training and upskilling, to improve staff skills, reduce churn, and so keep the customer’s experience as positive as possible.
“CCAM training allows us to meet the demand for intelligent facilities by continuously assessing our people’s competence and confidence in relevant technologies and technical disciplines and to close any gaps identified within the engineering workforce via comprehensive training programmes,” Lane explains.
“Using AI to train our teams within data centres allows us to embrace new, advancing technologies and ensure our talent is prepared for the next generation of tech and remains ‘right skilled’. In adopting this approach, CBRE is helping ensure that our staff remain continuously employable in a fast-changing market.”