In today’s discussion, our panel of data center experts discuss the future of data center automation, and how it is being shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversation is moderated by Rich Miller, the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier.

Data Center Frontier: The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting companies to pursue automation to limit health risks. What are the most promising innovations the data center industry can adopt to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic?

Kevin Facinelli, Nortek Air Solutions: COVID-19 has also put a new emphasis on working remotely and automation. Limited travel and fewer administrator data center onsite visits have given a new value to cooling equipment that’s fully automated. Automatically switching cooling modes, especially with indirect evaporative equipment, can save significant data center operating costs in both water and power. This type of equipment’s built-in control strategies react automatically within minutes to hundreds of programmed outdoor ambient scenarios to provide optimum energy efficiency. These systems also cool the majority of time without the use of traditional, energy-intensive chillers. However, trim chilling, if available, can automatically be employed a few days annually when worse-case outdoor conditions occur. This automation can be programmed for optimum sustainability and synergy with building management systems.

Therefore in a time and place like today where manual operator intervention may not be as convenient, cooling equipment automation is luckily state of the art. An operator might mistakenly believe that the BMS can be programmed to provide this type of pinpoint control, but no two buildings are alike. A data center cooling system with a sophisticated onboard control strategy can successfully navigate the tremendous amount of routine environmental variances directed toward the operator. It can simplify or filter them down to just critical tasks. This helps simplify data center operations that have become complicated with COVID-19.