Tuesday, 17 September 2019


“Data centres owned and operated by data-centre landlords, cloud services and other technology firms is expected to increase to roughly 9,100 this year, up from 7,500 last year, and are expected to reach 10,000 by 2020, IDC estimates.”  Source: The Wall Street Journal.

If all other data centres including hyperscale and enterprise were added, the total figure could be in the billions.  Businesses around the world rely upon data centres being available.  There is also more focus on the environment and climate change, so there is more focus on efficiency, and carbon-neutral designs – ergo yet more complexity to manage.

There is a reason that DCIM hasn’t been replaced with something new.  It has had a bad rep for many reasons, but it is necessary to help us manage ever more complex, hybrid environments, and so it has to evolve.  It needs to connect to facilities systems, network systems, IT systems and orchestrate changes as they are required.  No longer can the M in DCIM represent ‘monitoring’.  Perhaps the metamorphosis of DCIM more accurately should be DNIO: Data centre, Network and Infrastructure Orchestration.

DCIM is now moving into the IT stack, and integrating with systems, such as Intel DCM, local ITAM, local CMDB and cloud-based systems.  It now offers the ability to analyse real-time data across sites, and provide AI based solutions to controlling the data centre throughout the IT stack – from the BMS, through to application performance.

One of the hardest elements in a DCIM implementation has been integration, and figuring out how processes and procedures should work, and then how to automate them.  This integration piece – in the past - has either been technically challenging, or financially challenging, or seen as scope creep, or it has been something that a vendor or stakeholder has discouraged.

What is really required is an open integration suite that would allow enterprises to pull their own bespoke solutions together, without racking up expensive development bills. It seems this vision is slowly becoming a reality after some M&A activity in the DCIM space, and clients and vendors steadfastly staying the course behind the DCIM vision.

This brings with it a different way of looking at managing the data centre: it’s a data-centric view.  Instead of worrying about whether an integration is possible, it’s reasonable nowadays to assume that it is. Therefore, it is possible to design the system in the most efficient way and make use of automation where it makes sense.

Here are six encouraging areas of progression where more integration is enabling positive leaps forward:

Broader scope of infrastructure managed by DCIM:

The links to CMDB, ITAM and other systems on the IT side are bringing more data analysis opportunities, with a broader scope of data points.

Use of Artificial Intelligence:

AI is being used more readily in a number of areas within the DC.  For example, cooling optimisation, and security.  AI can learn normal network behaviour and detect cyber threats based on deviation from that behaviour. 

Open platform approach:

Instead of a silo’d approach both internally and externally, the data-centric view of the DC should take priority, which means that IT, Facilities, and vendors are all working together.

SDK / Open  API:

A number of vendors are providing SDKs or Open APIs, which are a good step forward to making integrations between systems work, and it shows that they are open to working with other companies.

CMDB and Asset Management:

There is a recent move to focus on asset management and aligning assets in ERP systems too, to provide a single source of the truth.  From a data centre perspective, having the assets managed well, is an essential building block to DCIM and data centre management.

Processes and Procedures:

Data centre operators are viewing the system as a whole and are finding areas where technology can automate processes.  For example, adds, moves and changes can be streamlined, saving around 30% of resource time by using accurate DCIM data and integrated workflows.

In a world where IT systems are becoming more distributed, and IoT is making its mark, data centres must take a data-centric approach to managing the system of systems housed under their roofs.  Silo’d thinking no longer has a place in the modern data centre:  DC and IT managers need to work together, alongside a multitude of vendors who also need to align and integrate their offerings to the clients’ needs.

This open platform approach enabling integration brings many benefits to life.  An integrated workflow capability facilitates automation, reducing resource time required for operational tasks.  With more visibility of systems, capacity management from the CRAC unit through to ports in the meet me rooms, is a reality allowing the DCIM to assist with intelligent commissioning of new assets and patching routes.  Energy optimisation now involves data from the servers themselves, allowing them to shift workloads when compute requirements are low, thus allowing a server to potentially stand down.

With this data-centric approach, the return on investment should not only be better, it should come in sooner as well.  The software-defined data centre is now in view. 

Guest Blog written by:

Assaf Skolnik, CEO, RiT Tech

Venessa Moffat, Head of Product Marketing, RiT Tech

Marketing, Strategy and Growth Hacking specialist, with 20 years’ experience in the Data Centre and tech industries. Venessa holds a BSc in Computer Science, a Post Grad Diploma in Business Administration, as well as an MBA from Essex University, where she specialised in agile IT architectures for maximum business value. She has successfully led strategy development and implementation programmes in multiple international data centre organisations. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2019


In the middle of June, nearly 50 million people across South America were plunged into darkness after a massive power failure wiped out supplies across virtually all of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.  Could something similar ever happen here in the UK and, if so, what’s likely to cause such a fundamental failure?

The source of the blackout was said to be an issue with two 500 kV transmission lines that disrupted electricity from the Yacyret√° hydroelectric plant.  Alleged system design flaws then turned what should have been merely a localised problem into a complete grid failure branded as “unprecedented” by Mauricio Macri, the President of Argentina. 

Our new investigation the Blackout report explores the likelihood of a UK-wide electricity network failure and what the consequences of such a severe incident could be. While data centres are probably as well-prepared as any business, with built-in redundancy and backup supplies in the form of UPS systems and generators, they certainly wouldn’t be immune to severe disruption.

We discovered that high-level contingency planning states that a complete power grid shutdown within the next five years is a 1-in-200 possibility. While very unlikely, there’s still a 1-in-240 chance that the average Brit will die in a road accident during the course of their lifetime, so it’s certainly not out of the question.

So, what are the biggest threats to the electricity supply here in the UK?

•             Climate Change & Extreme Weather

The top 10 hottest years recorded in the UK have taken place since 1990, while sea levels around the coast rise by 3mm a year as warm water expands and ice caps melt.
In the coming years, the effects of climate change mean we’re likely to experience more weather at the extreme ends of the spectrum – torrential rain, storm-force winds, scorching heatwaves and prolonged cold snaps.

Such weather events pose significant harm to the network.  Winds bring down trees that take out transmission lines. Floods damage crucial infrastructure and make it harder for engineers to fix faults.

There are numerous such examples of severe weather here in the UK: the Great Storm of October 1987; the 2013 St Jude Storm, which left 850,000 homes without power; winter floods caused by Storm Desmond in winter 2015-16.

We’re likely to experience far more of these sorts of incidents in the future.

•             Space Weather

“Space weather” collectively describes the series of phenomena originating from the Sun. These include asteroids, solar flares, meteors and geomagnetic storms.

Because of modern society’s reliance on GPS and other satellite signals, the potential impact of any space weather incident is huge – even a weak solar flare can knock satellites out of action.
The biggest ever incident of space weather recorded on Earth took place in 1859. Named after astronomer Richard Carrington, the Carrington Event was a massive magnetic storm that disrupted telegraph systems and electrical equipment.

Today, there’s a 1% annual probability for a repeat occurrence of such an event.
Back in 1989, a smaller storm took down the Hydro-Québec electricity network in Canada, leaving nine million people in the dark for up to nine hours.

•             Accidents & Systems Failures

There are a wide range of events that could fall under this category. It could be a component failure or software crash, basic human error, or accidental fires and explosions.

In reality, most of these incidents will produce an impact limited to a specific location. However, even these events could cause disruption to significant numbers of businesses, service and people.

•             Infrastructure Attacks

The threat of terrorism – in its many forms – is something the UK is all too familiar with. Various state and non-state agents could deliberately target a country’s power supplies using explosives or other means to destroy essential infrastructure such as transmission lines or electricity substations.

In recent years terrorists have carried out major attacks on energy infrastructure in places such as Algeria and Yemen while, this spring, anti-government forces were said to have taken out one of Venezuela’s hydroelectric plants, which contributed to a blackout that left 30 million residents without electricity.

•             Cyber-Attacks

You’re probably aware of the incident just before Christmas 2015, when Russian hackers used special malware to shut down 30 substations in Ukraine, leaving 250,000 people without electricity but did you know the network here in the UK was also compromised on 7 June 2017;  the day of the General Election?

While this spring saw the first USA case of electricity-related cyber hacking, with control systems of grids in California and Wyoming penetrated.

These days, it’s not just an elite band of state-sponsored hackers that pose a threat. Anyone armed with a laptop and a degree of know how could use high-grade malware to launch a potentially harmful attack. 

The UK’s energy network is shifting fundamentally to smart grids, while our day-to-day lives are dominated by supposedly ‘smart’ devices such as virtual assistants, smart phones, or energy meters.

These trends offer hackers many more vulnerabilities to exploit. Could hackers gain access to thousands – potentially millions – of smart devices, powering them up in the middle of the night when the grid isn’t prepared for such a power surge?  Or, more subtly, could incorrect data be fed back into smart grids, either inflating or understating the real demand for electricity?

The Blackout report is free to download from www.theblackoutreport.co.uk

Guest blog by Leo Craig, General Manager of Riello UPS Ltd

Tuesday, 15 January 2019


At the beginning of every new year, it is the time for predictions and NTT Group have been sharing their thoughts on what will affect the business world over the next year or so (here).  In particular, they have focused on digital transformation and the impact this is having on how we work, live and play.

However, we mustn’t lose sight of the basics, as we build our resilient cyber defence architecture. The digital agenda is a pressing one for all businesses and one that they cannot afford to ignore – the customer is king and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) puts increased pressures on the board to ensure that not only business data is secure but personal data too.

So, while we stand by our predictions, it is also advisable to reflect on some of the basics that we continually see overlooked by organisations as they try and protect their business from constantly evolving cyber threats:

1. Assess the baseline

With an increasing focus on “platforms”, it is crucial that this fits into a resilient cybersecurity architecture and to ensure efficiency in reducing potential threats and vulnerabilities. Performing a baseline assessment will ensure the correct security foundations are in place to help you get the best from your security investments.

2. Scan the environment 

One of the most important basic practices is vulnerability scanning but running a vulnerability scan on its own is not enough. The results should be analysed and assessed against your critical assets.  This approach ensures that risks are put in context and valuable resources are focused on mitigating the right risk.

3. Plan for a breach

Incident response plans are critical for minimising the impact of a breach. Complex cyber threats are difficult and time-consuming to unpick and may require specialist knowledge and resources to comprehensively resolve. By having a well-defined plan, and testing it regularly, as well as recognising that security incidents will happen, organistions will be better prepared to handle incidents in an effective and consistent way.

4. Collaboration 

Most business recognise the shortage in cybersecurity skills and the industry as a whole is collaborating more. We work closely with our technology partners and industry and government bodies to share intelligence. We now focus on prediction and prevention to get ahead of the potential threats. Collaboration will allow businesses to actively manage the threats before it impacts them.

5. Support the basics 

Clearly it is now on the board’s agenda but we need to ensure that everyone is aware of the risks. It is everyone’s responsibility in our digital economy to be responsible for cybersecurity.  This is why we support training and education programmes to ensure that everyone supports the basics of cybersecurity.

6. Reduce the noise

There is the potential for huge amounts of data to be collated and analysed across the enterprise. Focus should be on the quality of this data and the reduction in false positives. Too often organisations are drowning under the wealth of un-actionable security data. Technologies aren’t configured correctly or are simply too complex to manage effectively. Configuring, tuning and managing the security technology either directly or through a trusted partner is also a basic requirement that many organisations are failing to master.
So, while we always start to look forward at this time of year, we should not lose the lessons of the past and ensure that we get the basics right.

About NTT Security:

NTT Security is the specialised security company and the centre of excellence in security for NTT Group.  With embedded security we enable NTT Group companies (Dimension Data, NTT Communications and NTT DATA) to deliver resilient business solutions for clients’ digital transformation needs.  NTT Security has 10 SOCs, seven R&D centres, over 1,500 security experts and handles hundreds of thousands of security incidents annually across six continents.

Guest Blog written by Garry Sidaway, SVP Security Strategy & Alliances, NTT Security