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Data centers are essential and innovating during the COVID-19 pandemic

Covid-19 continues to hang over us as we all become fully entrenched in our “new normal.” Of all the “essential” services, healthcare workers are the undisputed heroes and cannot be thanked enough. Google has seen an uptick in searches of “how to say thank you” to essential workers at the front lines of the health crisis and beyond. From nurses to bus drivers to grocery store and restaurant workers, we are all grateful to those that accept life-threatening risk and choose to do their jobs that keep day-to-day services running making all of our lives easier. 

At the same time, with the majority of the workforce remaining remote, we have become more reliant on cloud and online services than ever before. Behind this is another industry and essential group of workers that may not be as readily apparent.

Data centers provide the digital infrastructure responsible for the compute, storage, networking and security of nearly every consumer and business service keeping the economy afloat and all of us connected. The “cloud” lives in data centers and data centers are the essential commerce platforms of the 21st century.

Upon the outbreak of the pandemic, data centers were designated as “essential” since virtually all industries and consumers depend on them. The most advanced data centers responded with innovative new services leveraging new technologies enabling the unmanned automation of systems.

QTS data centers are monitored and managed by an API-driven Service Delivery Platform (SDP) powered by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and predictive analytics (PA) that are allowing data center managers and enterprise customers to stay home and literally manage their entire IT environment from a mobile device.

Since the onset of the pandemic, customer usage of SDP has increased significantly and our customers are telling us that they value the innovation that is enabling higher levels of transparency, visibility, compliance and sustainability that are core tenants of SDP.

 

How did we get here?

 

SDP represents the beginning of a journey QTS embarked on five years ago. In 2015, the data tsunami was creating challenges and opportunities across industries. QTS faced a fundamental, yet critical, business decision. QTS committed to becoming the first data center company to embrace and invest in a fully digitized, API-driven service delivery platform engineered to help enterprise, hyperscale and government organizations view, manage and optimize their data center environments with ease. 

The creation of the SDP essentially involved establishing an agile software company within QTS. By fully digitizing our data centers SDP applies AI, ML and PA to empower customers to interact with their data and QTS services by providing real-time visibility, access and dynamic control of critical metrics across compute and store environments from a single platform.

Along the way, we extended our Application Programming Interfaces (API’s), allowing customers and partners to embed QTS into their own planning and provisioning applications making QTS part of their operations workflows.

Today, QTS SDP and its artificial intelligence engine digitizes, aggregates and analyzes more than 4 billion data points (per day) across all of QTS’ customers IT environments. With more than 17,000 active users across a base of 1,200+ customers, SDP is delivering performance improvements, operational savings and new business innovation that are at the heart of any IT investment.

More recently, since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, SDP usage has increased significantly.  QTS attributes the increases in demand to services and capability that align with the requirements of a dramatically expanded remote workplace.

 

Advancements Powered by Innovation

For years, the data center industry has been challenged by a lack of innovation and a need to find new ways to solve pervasive and complex challenges.  QTS’ expanding experience with AI, ML and PA has led to the realization of how much more is possible.

As a result, QTS developed the QTS Innovation Lab (QIL) as a natural extension supporting the SDP.  QIL is a dedicated organization within QTS and a major shift in how data center services are developed and delivered to customers.  QIL features a team of data scientists, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data visualization experts dedicated to ideate, conceptualize and bring forth innovative, first-to-market solutions that dramatically improve the way customers interact with QTS’ data center infrastructure.

The team takes a scientific approach to vet new ideas and potentially industry moving concepts before they are approved for further development. Once approved, QIL develops audit ready prototypes of new applications for delivery to QTS customers via SDP.

One example resulting from the QIL is 3D Mapper, a visualization app that renders an exact replication of a customer’s IT environment in real-time. We build a live, interactive 3D digital model of each customers’ unique environment. Using facility CAD drawings as the foundation, 3D visualizations are embedded with critical information including power utilization, temperature and humidity data, physical security, and asset details by rack location enabling a holistic view of how the customers’ environment is operating in real-time and on-demand.

Other QIL first-to-market projects in development include:

  • Predictive Power - Leverages AI and predictive analytics to accurately forecast future power consumption.
  • Project Parlay - Leverages AI to enable a conversational interface for SDP via Slack.
  • Project Isobar - Leverages predictive analytics and AI to predict temperature based on power consumption. A 3D heat map displays temperature in real-time with past and future predictive modeling.
  • Project 4th Wall - Collaboration tool enabling up to eight people to remotely share and visualize real-time data, images and live video from racks and assets within the data center on mobile devices.
  • Project B-Roll - Real-time data center video digitized and integrated with badge data, facial recognition and masking technology to clearly show what each individual is doing in the data center.

 

 

Wall Street and the industry at large have taken notice of QTS’ SDP. In June, Raymond James Financial published an Industry Brief titled Data Maps and Killer Apps that surveyed the platforms of three global data center operators and noted:

 

“While all three platforms have the ability to track and report common data, the ease of use of the systems was quite different. Only QTS had the entire system wrapped up into an app that was available across multiple desktop, tablet, and mobile platforms, complete with 3D imaging and simple graphics that outlined the situation visually down to an individual rack within a cabinet. QTS' system also has video capability using facial recognition to detect and identify employees and contractors separately, highlight an open cabinet door and other potential hazards inside the customers cage, and it is all either real time or on a recorded basis to highlight potential errors and problems. Live heat maps allow customers to see the areas with potential and existing performance issues and to see outages in real time and track down problems. As far as features and functionality, QTS SDP system was the clear winner.”

 

In September, Frost & Sullivan chose QTS as the recipient of its Global Visionary Innovation Leadership Award, in part, for its Service Delivery Platform. The full award report highlighting QTS’ key characteristics and areas of innovation that that contributing to its selection can be accessed here

 

Regarding SDP, Frost & Sullivan noted, “Before diving into the details of SDP and the phenomenal value addition it brings to the end user, it is imperative to state the fact that SDP is not another DCIM tool-set. It cannot even be compared with the most advanced DCIM solutions available in the market, as SDP brings so much more to the table than such DCIM offerings.”