Data centre outages increase as operators struggle with complexity

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The rate of outages experienced by data centres has increased, according to a survey of 900 operators and IT practitioners, conducted by the Uptime Institute. Particularly concerning is the fact that the severity of these outages has also increased.

The survey results show that most respondents believe that their hybrid data centre approach, a mix of off-premises and privately owned on-premises capacity, has made their IT operations more resilient. However, the Uptime Institute points out that this is not supported by the evidence: the number of respondents that experienced an IT downtime incident or severe service degradation in the past year (31%) increased over last year’s survey (about 25%).

In the past three years, almost half of the 2018 survey respondents had an outage. Almost 80% said their most recent outage was preventable, with on-premise power failures, network failures, and software or IT systems errors being the most common primary causes. For most, it took one to four hours to fully recover, with one third of respondents reporting a recovery time of five hours or longer.

According to the Uptime Institute’s analysis of the findings, operators are grappling with new challenges, including the business case and cost of hybrid IT approaches.

“The rapid growth in the implementation of cloud and hybrid IT approaches has ushered in a period of great change creating technology, organisational and management complexity,” said Andy Lawrence, Executive Director of Research at Uptime Institute. “And these new challenges are many times unlike anything previously seen in the industry at this magnitude. It’s a perfect storm.”

“Today, operators are grappling with new challenges, including increased complexity and high interdependency of systems and data centers,” continued Andy Lawrence. “Looking ahead, many are expecting to deploy significant new hybrid and edge computing capacity, which will support new services, but will add an additional layer of complexity in doing so.”

There was some good news for the green credentials of data centre operators, however. Data centre operators have succeeded in lowering energy waste – the average PUE was reported at a record average of approximately 1.58 (although year on year improvements are decreasing).

The survey data also showed that crucial to the growth of the distributed digital infrastructure is the implementation of highly distributed and/or edge computing, enabling more efficient operations through automation, real time data analysis and artificial intelligence (and machine-learning) control associated with remotely-managed facilities. More than 40% of respondents stated they expect their organisation will require edge computing capabilities, which was defined as “requirements that will necessitate processing data closer to the source of its generation/use”.

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