In this blog post titled: ‘Is the Digital Generation Killing our planet?’, CRA Consultant Azhar Mohd-Hashim, discusses data centres, the planet and business resilience.
Data Centres are set to consume 20% of the world’s energy generation by 2025 (Data economy, 12 December 2017). This is driven by the amount of data that we generate e.g. through social media and mobile phones. Keeping the lights on at data centres will pose a challenge to ensure that our data remains available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The recent WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook outages illustrate just how frustrated some people get when one of their favourite apps is not functioning.
A successful data centre, which is highly available, needs four key services;
*A stable and reliable electrical supply
*A Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, for environmental control
*Robust internet connectivity
*Security systems, both physical and cyber
In addition, a data centre needs a good internal (e.g. fire) and external (e.g. flood) hazards management strategy along with a maintenance and test programme that ensures high availability and functionality.
At CRA we advocate the building of a holistic risk model to indicate where the operational availability of the data centre may be compromised. Key Risk indicators (KRIs) are identified that are pertinent to the data centre in frame.
Each KRI is then modelled, where the model includes a logical representation of the plant, technology, and human interaction (e.g. maintenance teams) to ensure a high operational availability.
CRA uses risk visualisation techniques to aid the process of simplifying the risk picture and narrative. Data availability during a crisis will help operators to manage the situation. When senior management/leadership teams are able to make use of the risk model; it becomes a valuable input to ensuring that service level agreements are being met in keeping the data centre operational and the lights on.
Circling back to the title of this blog, we are concerned about the sustainability of our planet if digital usage and the associated energy consumption continues to increase. What are the possible solutions?
Jasbir Sidhu, our holistic risk modelling expert, considers that it could be argued that the Uptime Institute, which provides guidance on the design of data centres, takes a highly conservative, deterministic view of the world. This is problematic as it may potentially lead to data centres being over engineered unnecessarily such that excessive electricity is being consumed. If the guidance were to take a more pragmatic, best estimate approach (taking uncertainty into consideration), combined with a holistic risk model, it is considered that the data centres are more likely to use less electricity to maintain operations. This in turn would have a measurable benefit for our planet as less electricity would need to be generated in the first place.
Risk modelling, resilience gap analysis, risk acceptance processes and use of ALARP (As Low As Reasonably Practicable) concepts could be used to better aid our understanding of business resilience. Risk informed approaches to keeping our Data Centres up and running can minimise the effort required, minimise hardware redundancies and, in turn, be gentle to the planet.
The Risk & Safety Forum agenda features presentations from a number of organisations including: EDF Energy, Delft University of Technology , EUROCONTROL , Bel V ,Jacobsen Analytics , YUDU Sentinel , Lloyd’s Register, Sweden, Open Data Institute, AsheTech, Rolls-Royce Submarines and Whiteley Aerospace Safety Engineering & Management Limited.
Attending the Forum is a fantastic opportunity to hear from industry experts, discuss latest developments and challenges and share best practice with peers.