Data centers are critical systems whose real-time operation is extremely sophisticated. Our dependence on these systems is increasing and any disruption can affect the lives of millions of people.
Increasingly, these physical systems are supported by digital systems that make it possible to reinforce operation and maintenance capacities through virtual representations that make it possible not only to visualize and monitor in real time what is happening, but also to simulate, control and operate these infrastructures assisted by virtual or augmented reality systems. These simulators are what we call digital twins.
Nowadays, critical infrastructure operators have the possibility to train using digital twins to learn how to operate in normal or emergency mode, how to perform maintenance routines, or how to update the configuration of these systems for different needs. They are, simulators that allow us to train our reflexes in emergency situations, or simply to facilitate daily operation.
The use of digital twins in the operation and maintenance of data centers will become more prevalent in the coming years due to a few factors that are fundamentally affecting the industry.
Quantity, dispersion, and complexity of infrastructure
The rise of hyperscale data centers, while peripheral or Edge data centers are multiplying, requires the operation and maintenance of many sites, distributed throughout the geography and growing in complexity. A common O&M team is often responsible for multiple sites, with a heterogeneous mix of equipment from different manufacturers installed in different topologies and configurations. Digital twins are well-calibrated replicas of each of these systems that can be managed in an aggregated and individual manner from a centralized point.
Lack of qualified employees
A data center is a system that combines all engineering disciplines. One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the lack of qualified personnel in several of these disciplines. Digital twins will speed up training and simplify operation and maintenance by using engineers who do not need to be experts in each of the disciplines. Another challenge that digital twins will solve is the coordination and scheduling of maintenance and operation between the different disciplines to avoid unwanted downtime..
Operating the electrical systems in data centers can be very risky due to the amount of energy consumed at these sites. Digital twins will allow security procedures to be trained on an exact replica of our infrastructure, and in the future we will be able to perform operations remotely through virtual reality systems.
This operational efficiency depends on energy consumption, number of dedicated staff, equipment maintenance contracts, maximization of resources and reduction of idle capacity. Digital twins can bring a lot of value in all these aspects of operational efficiency by helping to simulate different operating scenarios, refining, and coordinating the configuration of each piece of equipment and in aggregate, reducing the number of dedicated personnel, and allowing idle capacity to be identified.
Digital twins are a database with digital models of each of the elements and components that make up the data center, with complete information on their characteristics, behaviour, configurations, and interdependencies. If we instrument the data center and equip it with sensors and IOT devices that allow us to calibrate all the important variables in real time, we will have a model that is faithful to reality which, through virtual and augmented reality systems, will ensure maximum availability.
To obtain the digital twin of the data center, it is essential to start the process at the design and construction stage, obtaining as output of this stage the as-built in 3D BIM, as well as all the associated instrumentation and senzorization, which will provide us with real-time data, and which will be the basis of the digital twin to be used in the next phase of operation and maintenance of the infrastructure.
IDP is a pioneer and leader in the use of BIM methodologies in Spain, developing infrastructure projects with this methodology for more than 10 years. IDP is a leader in Spain with more than 200 Digital Twins implemented in different industries and applications.