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The Human Body and Data Center Automation - Part 3 | @CloudExpo #AI #ML #IoT #M2M #Sensors #DataCenter

AI and ML systems do continuous learning and help regulate and maintain optimal conditions in the data center autonomously

The human body is the most complex machine ever created. With a complex network of interconnected organs, millions of cells and the most advanced processor, the human body is the most automated system in this planet. This article will draw comparisons between the working of a human body to that of a data center. It will also draw parallels between human body automation and data center automation and explain the different levels of automation we need to drive in data centers. This article is divided into four parts covering each of body main functions and drawing parallels on automation. This is the third article in the human body series, please go to http://ashishnanjiani.ulitzer.com or http://ashishnanjiani.com for the link for first and second article.

The Circulatory System
The circulatory system is a vast network of organs and vessels that is responsible for the flow of blood, nutrients, hormones, oxygen and other gases to and from cells. Without the circulatory system, the body would not be able to fight disease or maintain a stable internal environment - such as proper temperature. Circulatory system is also referred as the cardiovascular system consisting of the heart, blood vessels, and blood. Among these heart is one of the most important part of our body. The heart is the body's uninterrupted power supply which keeps running 24x7 without missing a beat. Just like the body circulatory system supplies vital power to each and every part of our body, in our data center the power supply and the cooling system does similar function. They keep all the parts within data center up and running and just like the consequences of heart not pumping for few seconds can be catastrophe for the human body, a power outage for few seconds or HVAC outage in a data center can be catastrophe for the business. In this article, we will review how our body circulatory systems works to efficiently 24x7 to keep us going and how we can learn from our body to create the next generation power and cooling infrastructure for our data center.

Source: livescience.com

According to Arkansas heart hospital in an average human, about 2,000 gallons (7,572 liters) of blood travel daily through about 60,000 miles (96,560 kilometers) of blood vessels. An average adult has 5 to 6 quarts (4.7 to 5.6 liters) of blood, which is made up of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. In addition to blood, the circulatory system moves lymph, which is a clear fluid that helps rid the body of unwanted material. The main function of the circulatory system is to provide oxygen rich blood to each and every cell of our body and take the oxygen depleted blood away from the cells. This needs to happen 24x7 and if at given time the cells do not get required oxygen, they die. Blood carries oxygen to every cell of our body through a highway of arteries, veins and capillaries. If the highway gets choked it can be fatal. How can our body operate so efficiently all the time without any accidents? The secret lies in the way the power house of our body "heart" works. Our heart is a wonderful organ that tirelessly works 24x7 to keep us going. Let's take a deep dive and understand how our heart works. Caution - this might get a bit more bio-technical, so hang on as we take deep dive inside our heart.

The heart is a fist-sized muscular pumping organ located under the rib cage, slightly to the left of your breastbone and between your lungs.  It pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body to sustain life. Heart beats (expands and contracts) 100,000 times per day, pumping five or six quarts of blood each minute, or about 2,000 gallons per day. Heart pumps blood to the entire body using system of blood vessels which is body circulatory system.

There are three main types of blood vessels:

  1. Arteries. They begin with the aorta, the large artery leaving the heart. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to all of the body's tissues. They branch several times, becoming smaller and smaller as they carry blood further from the heart and into organs.
  2. Capillaries. These are small, thin blood vessels that connect the arteries and the veins. Their thin walls allow oxygen, nutrients, carbon dioxide, and other waste products to pass to and from our organ's cells.
  3. Veins. These are blood vessels that take blood back to the heart; this blood has lower oxygen content and is rich in waste products that are to be excreted or removed from the body.

This vast system of blood vessels -- arteries, veins, and capillaries -- is over 60,000 miles long. That's long enough to go around the world more than twice.

The circulatory system has three important job to play:

  • Transportation: The cardiovascular system transports blood to almost all of the body's tissues. The blood delivers essential nutrients and oxygen and removes wastes and carbon dioxide to be processed or removed from the body.
  • Protection: The cardiovascular system protects the body through its white blood cells. White blood cells clean up cellular debris and fight bacteria and virus that have entered the body. Platelets and red blood cells form scabs to seal wounds and prevent pathogens from entering the body and liquids from leaking out. Blood also carries antibodies that provide specific immunity to pathogens that the body has previously been exposed to or has been vaccinated against.
  • Regulation: The cardiovascular system plays critical role in the body's ability to maintain stable internal conditions. Blood vessels help maintain a stable body temperature by controlling the blood flow to the surface of the skin. Blood vessels near the skin's surface open during times of overheating to allow hot blood to dump its heat into the body's surroundings.

Now that we understand how circulatory system works and the benefits, let's draw parallels to working of our data center and see how we can learn from our own body. Just like the circulatory system ensures each and every part of our body receives the power (oxygen), in our data center the power supply network ensures each and every device in our data center receives required power(electric current). It does so by network of power cables which are laid out in the data center to which all equipment connect.

The main power in data center is supplied by the electric utility company. It then goes to medium voltage switch gear including MV/LV transformer where the power is stepped down. From there it goes to large UPS supplying AC current. The UPS then supplies power to PDU (power distribution units) and to rack PDU(rPDU) which then powers servers and other IT equipment connected to them. Isn't this similar to arteries, capillaries and veins network inside the body which all are connected to our heart? Another parallel we can draw is with the data center cooling system. The role of heart is to pump oxygen rich blood across all parts of the body and remove oxygen depleted blood no longer required. It does so by carrying oxygen depleted blood through veins into lungs were freshly made oxygen is resupplied. Similarly, in data center the role of  HVAC system is to supply cool air to all equipment in data center and remove hot air generated by the equipment. Both of these activity needs to be done 24x7.

While we can draw lot of parallels between our body circulatory system and working of our data center, where our body excels is in the area of automaton. The whole function of supplying oxygen rich blood and removal of oxygen poor blood is completely automated! We don't instruct our body to do anything and while we enjoy having drinks with our friends, our body is working hard to ensure we can enjoy and takes care of running the engine! It knows that we are consuming alcohol and eating food and hence it increases the supply of oxygen to our liver and stomach so they can get to work to digest our intake. Again, it's not waiting for our permission.

On the other hand, imagine someone is trapped in wild winter storm with very thin layer of clothing. The person is freezing and the body is entering a stake called "hypothermia," a state where the body loses more heat than it can produce. It's a medical emergency and the body knows it.  It responds by increasing the flow of blood to vital organs of the body to keep them up and running while shutting down few parts of the body which are not vital for surviving, e.g., stomach. It does so by carefully monitoring the state of all organs and measuring internal and external temperature. Once it reads the data, it takes autonomous action to control the flow of blood. Similarly, if a person is running marathon, body knows the person leg muscles needs more oxygen as they are under extreme stress. Body reacts by supplying more oxygen rich blood to leg muscles by diverting it from organs which do need at the moment. Hence our body is not only capable of monitoring all parts of our body but also can take autonomous actions to maintain optimal condition. In our data center our power and cooling should work similarly.

There should be sensors placed at each and every component within DC. From UPS to PDUs and inside the cabinets/racks and all the equipment like servers, network and storage. These sensors should measure optimal operating conditions and if anytime the conditions do not match the settings, it should send alert. For example, the sensors inside the rack should measure how much heat is getting generated in each rack, based on heat generated sensors should instruct the HVAC equipment to increase or decrease cold airflow to particular rack /cabinet to maintain optimal condition. Similarly, if the sensors find particular equipment is over-heating and that can lead to damage, it should switch off equipment to prevent damage.

Even in case of power there should be intelligent sensors which should control flow of power based on demand. PDUs should be intelligent to provide continuous visibility into the rack/power utilization, and take autonomous action in case of power surge or imbalance that can lead to potential impact. This will ensure we can maintain uptime in our DC. Such PDU can also help reduce TCO by having environmental sensors linked to PDU that collect data (e.g., temperature) inside and outside of rack and can safely control operating temperatures and thus helping save on energy costs. What if there is security breach (physical or logical) in the data center?

Much like our body which can detect a breach and sends out white blood cells to fight the breach, a physical or logical breach in the data center should immediately trigger an alarm and even shutdown systems automatically to prevent theft of critical data. There are several other use cases like data center capacity, tile space utilization, etc where intelligence monitoring and autonomous action can help operate our data center more efficiently

In summary, here's what we can learn from our human body:

  • There needs to be intelligent sensors across all equipment in data center from tiles to power cables, everything needs to be IoT
  • A system that can collect data from all sensors and perform data analytics
  • A system that can take actions like control cooling, regulate power or take other autonomous action as and when required based on situation in the data center
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning systems do continuous learning and help regulate and maintain optimal conditions in data center autonomously.

Doing above will help reduce overall TCO and increase ROI in our data centers.

In the last and final article in this series, I will summarize what we have covered so far and will also offer available tools and technologies to help automate our data center. Until then, cheers.

More Stories By Ashish Nanjiani

Ashish Nanjiani is a Senior IT Manager within Cisco IT managing Cisco worldwide IT data centers as an operations manager. With 20 years of IT experience, he is an expert in data center operations and automation. He has spoken in many inter-company events on data center automation and helps IT professionals digitize their IT operations. He is also an entrepreneur and has been successfully running a website business for 10+ years.

Ashish holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics and a Masters in Business Administration. He is a certified PMP, Scrum master. He is married and has two lovely daughters. He enjoys playing with technology during his free time. [email protected]

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