How AI can create self-driving data centers

Early adopters are driving the use of AI to optimize power and cooling systems, automate predictive maintenance, and improve workload distribution in enterprise data centers.

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Most of the buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) centers on autonomous vehicles, chatbots, digital-twin technology, robotics, and the use of AI-based 'smart' systems to extract business insight out of large data sets. But AI and machine learning (ML) will one day play an important role down among the server racks in the guts of the enterprise data center. 

AI's potential to boost data-center efficiency – and by extension improve the business – falls into four main categories:

  • Power management: AI-based power management can help optimize heating and cooling systems, which can cut electricity costs, reduce headcount, and improve efficiency. Representative vendors in this area include Schneider Electric, Siemens, Vertiv and Eaton Corp.
  • Equipment management: AI systems can monitor the health of servers, storage, and networking gear, check to see that systems remain properly configured, and predict when equipment is about to fail. According to Gartner, vendors in the AIOps IT infrastructure management (ITIM) category include OpsRamp, Datadog, Virtana, ScienceLogic and Zenoss.
  • Workload management: AI systems can automate the movement of workloads to the most efficient infrastructure in real time, both inside the data center and, in a hybrid-cloud environment, between on-prem, cloud and edge environments. There are a growing number of smaller players offering AI-based workload optimization, including Redwood, Tidal Automation and Ignio. Heavyweights like Cisco, IBM and VMware also have offerings.
  • Security: AI tools can 'learn' what normal network traffic looks like, spot anomalies, prioritize which alerts require the attention of security practitioners, help with post-incident analysis of what went wrong, and provide recommendations for plugging holes in enterprise security defenses. Vendors offering this capability include VectraAI, Darktrace, ExtraHop and Cisco.

Put it all together and the vision is that AI can help enterprises create highly automated, secure, self-healing data centers that require little human intervention and run at high levels of efficiency and resiliency.

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