What the Hell (Heck?) are Digital Services?

August 3, 2016 Victor Avelar

A few months ago I was asked to research digital remote monitoring services and write a white paper to help educate our customers on the concept. One of the first things I asked was, “What the hell are digital services?”.  As someone who researches technology, I’m allergic to buzzwords, flowery language, vague statements like “one plus one equals three”, I think you get my point. So, needless to say, when I saw the words “digital remote monitoring services” I broke out in skepticism.

Digital Services

On the way to lunch, I asked co-workers what they thought it meant. Is it like the difference between an analog and a digital watch? Do I monitor my data center power consumption with an analog meter vs. a digital meter? I wasn’t the only one with a puzzled look. Well, it turns out that there are quite a few definitions1 available and most of them I’ve seen are consistent in two ways:

1) It’s a service that is delivered via the internet or electronic network
2) It is automated and requires little to no human intervention

If it’s not supplied via the internet, chances are it’s not a digital service. If it’s supplied via an app on your smart phone, chances are it’s a digital service. Examples of digital services include games, e-books, cloud-based software, websites, and streaming music. By the way, have you ever stopped to think that it’s getting harder and harder to buy a desktop program (e.g. Microsoft Office, video game, Photoshop) without some sort of digital service component?

Ok, great, so now that I have a definition, what do digital services mean to data center remote monitoring? This is where the benefits of big data analytics and machine learning come in. One of the things that Schneider is trying to do is simplify data centers. For example, simplifying power architectures by reducing the number of breakers and cross-ties and relying more on the IT power supplies for availability.

Reducing complexity also reduces the probability of human error.2 Complexity also creeps in with alarms and monitoring in general and presents a huge opportunity to reduce operational complexity in a data center. How many times have you received the same alert / alarm and ignored it. It turns out this happens in hospitals all the time, its called alarm fatigue. What about the root cause of an alarm or, at the very least, what should I check first?

These questions are ripe for solving via digital remote monitoring and a team of domain experts. And in the near future, with help from machine learning and big data analytics, data center operators will experience autonomous service scheduling, where a technician shows up to replace an old part that’s about to fail, with a new part. You’ll also know if your tracking along the PUE modeled for your data center or if it’s veering off due to an issue with the chiller. These are some examples of simplifying data center operations while improving reliability and efficiency.

Finally, one thing we can’t forget with digital services, as per the definitions, they are online. With all online services, we need to ensure cyber security. Digital remote monitoring services are usually implemented using a gateway as the single point into the network. The key with cyber security is to develop products and services using a secure development lifecycle (SDL) that ensures that security and privacy are thought through from the start. This is such an important topic that we’re writing a paper dedicated to it. This new paper should be released at the end of this month. In the mean time, you can read more about digital remote monitoring services in White Paper 228, Digital Remote Monitoring and How it Changes Data Center Operations and Maintenance.



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