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Automation Insights from Industry Experts

August 9, 2021 3 Minute Read

data center automation

Automation Insights from Industry Experts
Like factories, robotics and artificial intelligence are set to change the way data centers run today. How will automation change their operational future? CBRE’s podcast series, The Big Debate: Will Robots and AI replace humans in the data center? explores automation with various industry thought leaders. Over the seven-part interview series, data center experts shared their insights on robotics, the future of human factors and the realities of what obstacles exist for near-term automation in the data center.

“In regards to the environment in the data center, it’s really interesting because you’ve got perceived homogeneousness, but what you really have is constant change and constant variation and elevation of standards. What’s interesting to me in terms of when you look at adoption in our industry versus automotive or logistics is the rapidity of changing the tooling of the facility and what that environment is. Until there are some disciplines around that… and limitations of that change, the data center environment is an interesting mix between construction and early IT and which it is a tinkering, and adjust and make a tweak and to have the disciplines to really enforce the rigor… that concept is not in our industry.”
Chris Crosby, Founder and CEO, Compass Data Centers

“I think that those key and cornerstone technologies that will enable a more automated future of data centers have been developing at an incredible rate recently. We're already successfully incorporating AI into our own data center operations, using DeepMind machine learning. As a result, we've been able to reduce the amount of energy for cooling by up to 40 percent. For any large-scale industrial manufacturing facility with a lot of energy consumption, this would be an amazing improvement, but for us it is especially pleasing given how far down the path of optimization Google was already with our own efficiency. While you don’t have to stretch the imagination far to imagine a future where automation is responsible for a lot of the workload in a data center… the importance of the work done by humans cannot be overstated. After all, let us remember that humans can reason, while automation only knows what it was programmed to do.”
Joseph Kava, Vice President of Data Centers, Google

“That human is the middle mile and termination point is not scalable… whether it is a 100MW facility or a 1MW facility or a 10K facility. The reality is how often are software developers having to debug their code in production, hopefully almost never… The idea of automation has always been—and this is where I lose some fans in this industry because so much of this industry is about bodies in seats, and I don’t believe in bodies in seats for running an autonomous data center… We are not at the place yet where we can tell an AI exactly what we want to go build and software and it can go build it for us. We are edging closer, but humans and architects still write code, but we write that code to be self-sufficient, and if the Edge is going to work, we’ve got to introduce those same concepts to this. There is no way around it.” 
Cole Crawford, CEO, Vapor IO

“Automation is great, but automation for automation’s sake doesn't truly solve the full problem. I look at this as you can streamline a lot of pieces, but you can still have the same problem, because the automation is not connected end to end. The only we can make this happen is if we embrace a software-defined approach. Software needs to orchestrate those large, complex systems so that it can maintain the performance expected, but also enable dynamic efficiency and uptime—you can't compromise those. We will have robots doing maintenance. We will have RFID tags the size of grains of sand tracking everything everywhere in real time. That's what the future is going to look like.”
Dean Nelson, CEO, Virtual Power Systems, and co-founder, Infrastructure Masons 

The Global Leader in Data Center Operations

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