We’ll likely never see the day when data centers run without any type of human interaction – but some organizations are moving in the direction of “dim” or “dark data centers” (also called “lights-out data centers”).

A dark data center is one that is remotely monitored by humans, but where computer systems and equipment analyze and correct problems based on data collection and automation without much human involvement necessary. Dim data centers function similarly to dark data centers, operating with a reduced amount of human involvement (as opposed to essentially zero human involvement).

Why would we want to move in the direction of dark data centers? The biggest reason is to reduce the need for hands-on work. When people aren’t needed onsite to monitor, manage and troubleshoot data centers, there may be several benefits…

The Likelihood of Human Error Causing Unplanned Downtime Decreases

Numerous studies continue to indicate that the majority of data center downtime is caused by human error. Many aspects of a data center invite the potential for mistakes, whether due to illogical layout, poor (or no) labeling, lack of maintenance or inadequate training. Even the simplest oversight can result in a serious downtime event that may be difficult and costly to recover from.

By reducing data center foot traffic and the number of manual changes made, the likelihood of downtime caused by human error can also be decreased.

IT Staff Members Can Spend Time on Other Initiatives

Dark data center design allows IT staff to attend to more crucial tasks, ensuring that the organization’s critical applications and services get the attention they need.

Instead of working in “reactive mode,” they can be proactive in making sure their data center and technology strategy stays ahead of the organization’s needs.

Energy Use Can Be Reduced

When people aren’t regularly working inside a data center, cooling, lighting, humidity, temperature and air quality needs or requirements can be loosened to maintain a climate that supports high-performance computing, but doesn’t necessarily have to be the most comfortable for humans.

For example, cooling energy is a major recurring data center cost. If this monthly expense can be reduced, the savings can be reinvested into other types of projects or initiatives.

Evidence shows that data center systems are able to operate at higher temperatures and humidity levels without impacting performance, uptime or reliability.

Dark Data Center Considerations

There are very few organizations that have successfully launched a dark data center – and with good reason.

To support the safe operation of a Tier III or Tier IV data center, the Uptime Institute recommends that one or two qualified staff members be onsite at all times.

Physical security also becomes crucial in dark data centers in order to ensure that people without authorized access can’t enter. Although these facilities can be monitored remotely, and you can elect to receive alerts the moment someone without authorized access attempts to enter, physical security can still go a long way toward thwarting attempted attacks.

Want to learn more about ways you can improve data center uptime – whether you’re operating a dark data center, dim data center or traditional data center? Download our white paper: 9 Tips to Improve System Uptime.