"Every enterprise will need edge infrastructure"

Edge computing, 5G and IoT: How are current trends impacting the development of data centers?

Explosive technological development hasn’t stopped at Data centers’ doors. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, so does the need for storage and processing capacity. Edge computing has brought a trend toward more distributed solutions. Bertrand Delatte, head of Data Center Solution & Services Europe at Siemens, gives us his assessment of developments, the dangers associated with new technologies, and the reasons why he thinks transparency is indispensable in running a Data center.

The market for cloud infrastructure is dominated by American corporations. Is Europe going to be left behind? 

 

Bertrand Delatte: Europe has been catching up strongly lately. It’s true that the cloud market isn’t growing as fast as in the USA and Asia, but over the last three years especially the number of Data centers in Europe has grown massively. For a long time, Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Stockholm were considered the data center hot spots in Europe. But now others have come along – I’m thinking of places like Milan, Vienna, Madrid, Copenhagen and Oslo. It’s also true, though, that development in Europe too is being driven primarily by American and Asian cloud infrastructure players.

What about European cloud providers? 

 

There’s still no European cloud provider who’s operating in the same league. The EU should be giving that some thought, from both a geopolitical and an industrial-policy viewpoint. All in all, I think cloud services in Europe will develop differently than they have in places like the USA. In Europe, service providers are much more likely to operate regionally or locally. One reason behind that is certainly the EU’s strict data privacy laws. But those same data privacy laws can also be an opportunity for European organizations and companies, because data are processed intelligently only once they’re anonymized. That ensures ethical treatment and provides digital reinforcement for democracy. 

I think cloud services in Europe will develop differently than they have in places like the USA.

Data volume is increasing exponentially as the Internet of Things (IoT) grows more popular. Where will all that information be processed and stored in the future?

 

The digital revolution confronts not only companies, but governments, with major challenges. Cloud services will run up against their limits in terms of Internet bandwidth and Internet latency times. That’s why more and more IoT data are being processed and calculated outside Data centers. For that, you need a distributed IT infrastructure that’s fitted to a company’s individual needs. The industry refers to solutions like that as “edge computing.” I think any organization that wants to be a success for the long term will need edge infrastructure. They’ll have to be able to process at least some of their IoT data on site.  

What does that development mean for your business – selling data center solutions?

 

Edge infrastructure calls for a completely different approach from the business in large Data centers. At Siemens we rely on prefabricated, modular solutions that can quickly be adapted to individual customer needs. And in that connection, customers can also get our classic capabilities – like fire protection, security and business management – as a service.

The more transparent you make the operation of an IT infrastructure and a building, its security measures, and so on, the more transparent the costs will also be. 

The market for Data centers is fiercely competitive. How can operators enhance their profitability while also ensuring maximum uptime?

 

In a word, transparency. The more transparent you make the operation of an IT infrastructure and a building, its security measures, and so on, the more transparent the costs will also be. And on that basis you can identify potential areas for optimization as well. At least, that’s the firm conviction that underlies our portfolio of solutions and services, what we call the Integrated Data Center Management Suite. It includes all the necessary components – whether building management, data center infrastructure management (DCIM) or tools for optimizing performance.

Public and hybrid clouds are getting more and more popular, but people are still worried about security. Do they have a point?

 

No matter what digitalization strategy a company pursues, security always has to be at the top of the list – meaning both physical security and cybersecurity. And to minimize risk, once again you absolutely need transparency. Who downloaded what data, and when? Who’s authorized to have access to what? And when? If you can answer those questions, you’re on the right track.

5G technology will make it possible to accelerate digitalization where there are no fast data lines yet. 

Data centers need to be protected not just from cyberattacks, but from bodily intruders and physical attacks on the infrastructure. How big is the risk of attacks like those?

 

The number of cyberattacks continues to rise, but attacks on physical infrastructure are declining. Which is a good thing, because they can cause enormous damage. In the worst case, a data center could be shut down completely. That would not only have drastic financial consequences, it would also cause a loss of customer trust and confidence. To prevent horror stories like that from happening, it’s best to have a holistic security concept that covers the infrastructure’s entire life cycle and includes four dimensions – people, technology, process and time. What’s good about that kind of approach is that it kills two birds with one stone – it mitigates the threat from both physical attacks and cyberattacks.

Everybody’s talking about 5G technology these days. Will the fiber-optic infrastructure soon be obsolete?

 

 

Of course not! Fiber optics are the industry’s lifeline, no large Data center can do without them. In regions where fiber optic lines are available, digitalization is advancing at top speed. New Data centers are growing up there, and in turn they bring about economic growth. I see 5G technology as a complement to the fiber-optic infrastructure. It will make it possible to accelerate digitalization where there are no fast data lines yet. Edge computing solutions can be produced on a 5G basis. That can provide considerable compensation for shortcomings in the infrastructure.

Today, the players in operation are organized like medium-sized companies and offer cyberattacks as a service. 

What new risks does 5G pose for data security?

 

I’m not expecting 5G to produce any fundamental change in the threat scenarios. We can already see today the direction it’s heading in. What we’re seeing is a kind of standardization of cybercrime. It used to be that most cybercriminals were loners. Today, the players in operation are organized like medium-sized companies and offer cyberattacks as a service. They pose just as much of a threat to the 5G network as to any other IT infrastructure. 

Data centers need immense amounts of energy. What are the chances of making them greener?

 

First of all, Data centers can of course be optimized with new technologies, and second, changes in processes will also help. For example, cooling to reduce energy demand. Waste heat can be used for purposes like heating other buildings, swimming pools or greenhouses. That reduces the ecological footprint. But you can also start from the direction of energy supply. Still, when it comes to energy supply, operators’ first priority is reliability. So renewable forms of energy aren’t ideal for large Data centers. The picture is different for smaller, distributed facilities. In fact, we’ve already been part of a project in France that also uses wind and solar energy. I’m certain that edge technology will bring along more such distributed projects that will also use renewable energy.

2019-07-31

Picture credits: Siemens AG

 

About Bertrand Delatte

Bertrand Delatte has headed the Data Center Solutions & Services business line for the Europe Region at Siemens since September 2015. He has extensive cross border experience in the acquisition and delivery of critical infrastructure projects. Over the past few years, he and his global account management team have mobilized the power of Siemens to serve the expansion of international customers in the IT, telecom and security industries. Together with his team of dedicated experts, he is advancing development of data centers as “the factories of the 21st century” all over Europe.

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