Data Center

Dark Data Centers Reduce the Need for Hands-On Management

Denis Blouin

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 IT staff, 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. Multiple aspects of data center management invite the potential for error, whether due to illogical layout, poor (or no) labeling, mediocre maintenance or inadequate training. Even the simplest oversight can result in a serious downtime event that may prove difficult and costly to overcome. Reducing data center foot traffic and the number of manual changes made can help with the likelihood of downtime caused by human error can also be decreased.


Optimize IT Resources

Dark data center design allows IT teams to focus on more critical tasks, ensuring that the organization’s critical applications and services get the attention they need. Rather than working in “reactive mode,” IT professionals can take a proactive stance in making sure the data center and technology strategy stays current with organizational needs. 


Reduced Energy

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. Cooling is a prime recurring data center cost. Reducing this monthly expense enables data center operators to reinvest in other priority initiatives.


Final Considerations

There are few organizations that have successfully launched a dark data center.  To support the safe operation of Tier III or Tier IV data centers, the Uptime Institute recommends that one or two qualified staff members be onsite at all times.


Physical security is also important in dark data centers to ensure those without authorized access can’t enter. Although these facilities can be monitored remotely, including alerts the moment anyone without authorized access attempts to enter, physical security can still go a long way to preventing attempted data center attacks.