AR can help facility managers optimize, expand, maintain and secure data center infrastructure. As demand for data centers grows, IT managers and facility construction teams need advanced technologies to keep up. Augmented reality can improve visibility, help train new employees, strengthen security and more. How can data center managers begin using it to enhance their operations today?
Support for Expanding Data Center Infrastructure
Demand for data centers in the U.S. is expected to double from 2022 to 2030, rising to 35 gigawatts of power consumption. As digital services and activity grow, so will the need for more servers to power the online world. Data center infrastructure must continue to expand to meet this need. AR can aid in the data center expansion and construction processes.
Construction is already amid large-scale digitalization, with technologies like robotics and IoT making their way onto job sites. AR can help data center construction teams plan, design and build structures more efficiently. By improving visibility throughout the construction process, AR can reduce the likelihood of mistakes and rework. This is especially important for data centers, which require careful handling of properties like electrical wiring to ensure proper server performance.
AR helps bridge the gap between digital construction designs and the physical building site. Project managers can use AR to project digital visualizations of data center structures at the site to get a clearer picture of goals and next steps. Likewise, the construction team can use AR to guide them in building and installation processes, such as installing electrical wiring.
Similarly, data center managers can use AR to help plan expansion projects for their existing infrastructure. AR can show how an expansion might look and function alongside current floor plans and server organization. This ability to visualize expansion plans in the context of an existing building helps data center managers get their construction underway more quickly with less likelihood of needing adjustments down the road.
Increased Security Visibility
Cybersecurity and physical security are both top concerns for any data center manager. With clients trusting their sensitive data to a storage provider, managers must protect data center infrastructure against physical and digital threats. AR can aid in securing data centers by increasing the visibility of crucial security traits and risk factors.
For example, by combining AI computer vision with AR, data center employees can use AR apps to scan facilities for physical security risks. It is normal for employees to unintentionally miss things like an unlocked door or a security gate needing repair. With technology’s help, workers can ensure they do not accidentally miss key flaws like this.
AR and AI can also help pinpoint possibilities for improving security. For instance, an AR-AI app could show data center managers that the cages around a row of server racks provide weak protection and trap heat around the servers. With this knowledge, the data center manager could install new expanded metal cages instead, improving air circulation around the servers and strengthening their physical security.
AR is also helpful for connecting digital risks or cyber incidents to physical data center infrastructure. For example, cybersecurity monitoring programs might flag a specific server rack in a cyber incident. In addition to checking the digital defenses of the server, a physical inspection may reveal a related equipment failure or malfunction. Employees can use AR to analyze physical data center infrastructure with details from digital reviews overlaid on real-world equipment.
Improved Employee Training
AR is an excellent tool for making the employee training process more efficient. This is especially true for data centers, which require significant technical expertise and hands-on experience. Highly specialized jobs are becoming increasingly difficult to fill due to a growing skills shortage. As of 2023, millions of jobs are unfilled in professional and business services industries, such as data centers.
At the same time, demand for data center services continues to grow, resulting in a need to keep expanding infrastructure. Data centers can reduce labor gaps by implementing innovative training programs using AR. With the help of AR, workers can learn new technical skills on the job and at their own pace.
This is not just helpful for new hires, either. AR training can be highly effective for reskilling and upskilling existing employees as data center infrastructure changes and advances. The assistive capabilities of AR are great for filling in potential knowledge gaps. For example, a staff member could use AR to give them details on a complex new type of server as they do physical inspections of a data center.
Simplified Data Center Maintenance
Data center infrastructure requires careful maintenance of highly sensitive equipment, so sharp technical skills are essential. Those skills can be difficult to find in the hiring process, especially as existing experts get closer to retirement. AR can help bridge the gap, giving new employees quick access to the context and guidance necessary for precise data center maintenance.
Workers can use AR to guide them through complex maintenance processes using visuals projected on actual equipment. This gives employees a more accessible look at how a maintenance process works, especially compared to a conventional paper equipment manual.
AR may even be able to help optimize data center infrastructure. Surveys show 27% of data center managers report having issues with power efficiency and sustainability. By giving employees a detailed digital look at how individual servers perform, AR can help people identify optimization opportunities.
For instance, AR might show a particular section of server racks is drawing more power and generating more heat than neighboring racks, indicating a maintenance issue or poor performance. Resolving either of these issues could improve the server rack’s energy efficiency. With the help of AR, more employees can identify these insights, even if they have limited hands-on experience with data center infrastructure.
Innovating Data Center Infrastructure With AR
Augmented reality can be invaluable for managing, securing, maintaining and expanding data center infrastructure. Demand for data centers will only grow in the years ahead, so IT managers must have advanced tools available to help them optimize their facilities for top performance. AR can help bridge labor gaps, identify security vulnerabilities and improve data center construction.
Emily Newton is a technology journalist with over five years in the industry. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine exploring the latest innovations