Robots, AI will run data centers

Cloning employees’ intimate knowledge of their data center workspaces, plus robotic devices making connections among the changes coming to the data center environment

Robots, AI will run data centers
Peter Sayer/IDG

Artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain are among new technologies that are driving a need for increased data center capacity, according to a telco, announcing an expansion recently.

China Telecom said in a press release that these “rapidly maturing” technologies, such as machine learning and adaptive security, will propel investment in data centers. And that they are one reason for its data center-business enlargement.

Interestingly, though, data centers themselves may end up using this new tech as heavily as the customers.

San Jose, California-based Litbit says in a recent blog post that it has developed the first AI-powered data center operator.

AI tool helps prevent data center disasters

Dac, as the AI tool is called, promises to find loose electrical hook-ups and leaking water, among other potential data center disasters. It uses machine learning.

Infrared vision is among Dac’s skills, says CEO Scott Noteboom, writing in the company’s blog. That “superhuman” insight, he claims, helps identify electrical arc flashes and alert managers to failing power supplies. Such things can be a precursor to server failure.

Litbit uses a human-to-machine learning interface that combines what existing human employees know and can tell the machines to look out for, along with real-time data. Vision, acoustics and touch combined with algorithms are used to detect anomalies.

“Clone your best employees,” the company’s marketing proclaims. In this case, the AI computer is taught about data centers by the incumbents. A manager oversees it, but Dac can process “thousands of data center specific thoughts per second.”

Vibrations in server racks, for example, indicate hard drive issues—the drives exhibit acoustics that aren’t normal. Those anomaly sounds are compared to normal ones captured ultrasonically at varying load levels.

Environmental controls are another feature ripe for AI management and are used by Dac—HVAC, for example, can be adjusted based on weather.

Noteboom qualifies the obvious human job-loss element of his product by saying his AI tool has been created to let data center workers “focus on more interesting and new things.”

Additionally, however, Noteboom (speaking on the Infrastructure Masons panel at the DCD Webscale conference in San Francisco last month, which I did not attend) explains that the Dac product would be great for data center installs in remote locations, where highly skilled workers would have to be imported ordinarily. That is according to Data Center Frontier, who wrote about the panel.

Enter the robots

Robots are another entrant in the data center employment pool, says company Wave2Wave. (CEO David Wang, spoke on the same DCD panel.)

Wave2Wave’s product is a rack-mounted robot for making physical optical connections. The idea is to let data centers rapidly provision circuits.

Its tool, called ROME (Robotic Optical Switch for Data Centers) performs connections in a few seconds. The robot manages the cable connections, plucking components mechanically, almost like an old-school telecommunications switchboard where the panel-inserted electrical cords established voice connections.

It’s faster than software-defined networking (SDN) orchestration software, the company’s website explains.

Security benefits of AI and robots

Advantages to both Litbit and Wave2Wave’s products are also found in security. Omitting humans from the data center can be more secure.

“It’s a game changer in the physical connectivity space that’s overdue for innovation,” Wave2Wave says of its ROME connection-making robot.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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