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AI Is Revitalizing Data Centers

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IT technician using a laptop in a data center next to a row of servers

Artificial intelligence is refreshing data centers — improving efficiency, operations and performance with new capabilities. All types of centers benefit from AI's possibilities, from automated workload management to smart cybersecurity. AI is also becoming more accessible to smaller data centers and new developments are helping them move toward full automation.

How Data Centers Can Use AI

The largest data centers and storage providers — such as Google, Amazon and Facebook — have used artificial intelligence for years. For these “hyperscalers”, AI technologies are much more accessible and economically feasible to develop and deploy. For most data centers, AI is only just becoming a reasonable investment.

Many centers are using AI to improve their operating efficiency, particularly regarding power and cooling management. Any data scientist knows that these two operations aspects are the most crucial. Unfortunately, they can also be a significant source of expenses and tend to run inefficiently. Universal cooling has to cool servers with the highest power draws, leading to wasted energy for servers that don’t need it. AI is helping with this.

Artificial intelligence can autonomously monitor and adjust power and cooling needs throughout a data center. Once Google allowed DeepMind to control its HVAC systems, it noticed a 40% increase in energy savings. 

Similarly, AI is being used to monitor the health of data center equipment, such as humidity, temperature and operational performance. The data and conclusions collected by AI help data centers conduct predictive maintenance, preventing extensive periods of downtime for urgent repairs.

Current Trends in Data Center AI

Some key usage trends are emerging as AI becomes more accessible to more data centers. For example, security has become a major priority in data centers worldwide over the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a global surge in cybercrime, targeting every industry and type of organization.

Data centers of all sizes are now vaults for organizations’ valuable data and must protect themselves against hackers. Artificial intelligence is emerging as a tool for meeting these cybersecurity needs. Data centers can use AI to monitor traffic autonomously and report any suspicious activity, such as unauthorized or unusual access. They can also utilize it for access control, authorization and even analyses of risks and vulnerabilities before and after security incidents occur.

AI traffic monitoring is essential to note as more data centers shift toward cloud storage and operations. Experts note that traffic is a key factor in how data centers are deployed and organized. The insights collected by AI monitoring systems could help data centers transition to cloud operations, providing a highly detailed look into where the most power and storage is necessary and areas that could use more optimization.

Similarly, workload management is another emerging popular application for AI in data centers. This takes traffic monitoring a step further and manages workloads throughout a facility to operate as efficiently as possible. This function alone can truly revitalize centers, bringing performance boosts to old, new and even hybrid and cloud systems.

As the AI monitors traffic, workloads and temperatures throughout a facility, it can reorganize workloads in real-time to keep things running smoothly. This may even help data centers save on energy costs since there will be fewer overheated units in the facility thanks to optimized workload management.

Future Applications for AI in Data Centers

Moving forward, there are a couple of future applications and trends for AI in data centers that stand out. As centers expand and flesh out the capabilities of artificial intelligence in the years ahead, these uses will undoubtedly grow.

Arguably the most prominent application on the horizon is full data center automation using AI. Interestingly, this trend is emerging alongside a shortage of data scientists, making it both an advancement in the industry and a response to a growing challenge data centers are facing. Experts expect “auto everything” centers to be more prepared to predict and defend against cybersecurity threats and better optimized for high performance even with minimal staff.

Additionally, R&D continues to expand the capabilities of AI and improve the affordability and accessibility of the technology. Until recently, only large tech companies like Meta and Alphabet could afford to deploy AI on a large scale.

That’s changing, though — in the years ahead, more small data centers will be able to utilize AI technologies and services. Some Big Tech companies are even helping to develop the technology — such as Facebook’s AI research lab, FAIR — which is expanding natural language processing capabilities of AI models, as well as content moderation and monitoring.

Advancing Data Centers With AI

There are many ways that data centers can benefit from integrating artificial intelligence into their organization and operations. AI revitalizes data centers by boosting operating efficiency, performance and security. 

These functions are becoming more widely available, allowing smaller data centers to take advantage of the benefits of this technology. In the years to come, access to artificial intelligence will improve even more, as well as the capabilities of AI for total data center automation.

Zac Amos is a tech writer who focuses on artificial intelligence. He is also the Features Editor at ReHack, where you can read more of his work.