Fujitsu tests robot and 5G to monitor datacenter

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Fujitsu has announced a series of field trials at its data centre in Yokohama, which aim to carry out a digital transformation of the environment to automate processes and raise operational resilience, using private 5G networks to inspect equipment. The tests will take place between December 1, 2022, and March 17, 2023, and were selected by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications as one of its “demonstrations of 5G developments as a solution to challenges in 2022”.

The initiative will use a robot equipped with a 4K camera to capture video data from equipment in the data centre, including servers. This data will be transmitted locally over private 5G networks, and a system will analyse local conditions using Artificial Intelligence to detect abnormalities early. Fujitsu intends to create a plan to monitor local conditions and recovery work even remotely in the event of a disaster or emergency, taking full advantage of the high-speed transmission capabilities of private 5G networks.

The Japanese government’s vision for establishing a digital nation” calls for regional data centre facilities to mitigate the risks posed by natural disasters and other vulnerabilities resulting from the centralisation of data centres.

Patrol monitoring of equipment by a robot
Remote assistance for recovery work in the event of a disaster
Source: Fujitsu

Governments in Japan predict that the importance of regional datacenters is expected to multiply in the future. And in this context, to ensure stable data centre operations, it is imperative to ensure high-quality inspection and maintenance and rapid recovery in the event of a disaster or other emergency. However, the shrinking working population and difficulties in having talent remain a challenge in many parts of Japan, especially in rural areas. Thus, maintaining and improving inspection quality with a limited number of employees while reducing workload is a pressing issue for data centre operators.

Seeking to present a solution to this impasse, Fujitsu will build a private 5G environment in its data centre in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, and verify the effectiveness of autonomous robots to inspect equipment and facilities, making early detection and providing remote support in case of failures.

Fujitsu intends to use the knowledge gained from these tests to implement similar systems in its own data centres and as a solution for operators in other data centres.

More robotised and more efficient datacenters

By 2025, half of data centres with cloud environments will deploy advanced robots with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (ML) capabilities, resulting in 30% greater operational efficiency, according to Gartner.

“The gap between the growing number of servers and storage volume in data centres and work to manage them is widening. The risk of doing nothing to address these discrepancies is significant,” says Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner. He says data centre operations will only increase in complexity as more organisations move their diverse workloads to the cloud and as the cloud becomes the platform for combining more technologies, such as edge computing and 5G.

It is important to note that much of the work done in data centres is tedious, complex and repetitive. These tasks include capacity planning, right-sizing virtual machines and containers, and ensuring efficient use of resources to avoid waste. These are areas where robots can excel. “Data centres are an ideal environment to pair robots and AI to ensure security, accuracy and efficiency, with much less human intervention,” Nag explains.

The four areas that Gartner points to as the most impactful for automating data centres in the next five years are:

  • Upgrading and maintaining servers: Industrial robots can perform the task of decommissioning and destroying servers faster and more efficiently than humans. This is especially true for companies that perform frequent mass updates, such as cloud service providers.

  • Monitoring: Probes on robots provide rack temperature data with much greater granularity without installing any more invasive hardware. Robots used for remote monitoring can also collect other data, such as sounds and images, to detect anomalies.

  • Datacenter security: Keeping data centres digitally and physically secure is one of the priorities for all operators. Robots can provide physical security with different features, such as human temperature checks or number plate recognition in car parks.

  • AI/ML in cloud operations: In conjunction with robots, AI and ML technologies enable the monitoring and managing IT processes in data centres. For example, site reliability engineers can interact and communicate with the platform using natural language. Furthermore, these platforms can learn from past situations to increase efficiency in the future.

“Robots are already being used in industries like automotive and manufacturing, but opportunities in data centres have been overlooked. IT leaders can drive intelligent automation of data centre operations and processes with cloud environments to create key differentiators such as increased uptime and SLA compliance,” adds Nag.

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