Top-of-Mind for Data Center Leaders: Just How Critical Is Our Critical Infrastructure?
iMasons Advisory Council members discuss the rising criticality of critical infrastructure – and what it portends for the future of the data center.
At our most recent Advisory Council meeting, there was consensus among the members (five end users and eight partners) that the criticality of critical infrastructure is rising. “I used to sleep well knowing no matter how much I screwed up I’m not going to kill anyone,” said one partner. “That is changing. Has it already changed?”
An end user responded, “A lot of safety services run on our backbone. If we screw up and, for example, 911 goes down, then people will die. Even something as ‘simple’ as traffic lights can be life-or-death.” Mission critical infrastructure is rapidly becoming life critical infrastructure.
So how do data center partners and end users keep up with scale in a way that doesn’t impact safety? That, said one end user, “is the existential threat.” And it “will lead to data center industry regulation at some point.” (An idea seriously unpopular around the table.) “I don’t want to be regulated,” said one end user. “I don’t want to be considered a utility.”
“As data centers provide more critical services, there is going to be more scrutiny.” – Click to tweet
Another end user asked, “What happens if tomorrow the federal government decides you are national critical infrastructure?” There was no clear answer, but broad consensus that “as data centers provide more critical services, there is going to be more scrutiny.” (One partner pointed out that some data centers – those serving banks and other financial institutions – have been regulated for a long time.)
Critical – and fragile
“We need policies and procedures for IT infrastructure in the event of an emergency,” said one partner, referencing people’s reliance on access to social networks via mobile devices during natural disasters and other emergencies. The dependence is only increasing: “We need to figure out how to support IoT now too.”
An end user responded, “This is a fragility discussion.” He added that if he were meeting with the President of the United States, one of his three main talking points would be the utility grid. “The utility grid is fragile and not structured in ways that can accommodate resiliency, renewables, etc.” That issue becomes even more important as mission critical becomes life critical.
“Mission critical infrastructure is rapidly becoming life critical infrastructure.” – Click to tweet
There are barriers to progress on the issue of utility grid fragility. As one end user put it, “There are a lot of very entrenched, politically influential business models that are threatened by us [hyperscale tech companies]. Which makes it difficult to get done what we’re trying to do” – including keeping up with scale in a way that doesn’t impact safety.
The importance of availability has shifted over the years, and still depends a lot on who you’re talking to. For example, in last week’s blog post Advisory Council members talked about how because cloud players are architecting availability at the application level they’re less concerned about redundancy within a single facility, which is changing how everyone thinks about reliability. Yet one can easily imagine a shift in the opposite direction – perhaps even mandated by regulators – when lives are on the line.
Come back next week for the 5th installment in our top-of-mind series and hear from the Advisory Council on rising demand in emerging markets, which poses new challenges and requires new approaches from data center providers.
Previous posts in the top-of-mind series
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