Thought Leadership and Insight from Mike Byrnes

Mike Byrnes

For this edition of CLOUDS AHEAD Datacloud spoke to Mike Byrnes, Director - Cloud & Data Centre Sales & Services of Eaton Electrical, Europe, Middle East and Africa Region.

See Mike’s LinkedIn profile

Datacloud: What do you see as the future drivers for the industry?

The two biggest drivers affecting the industry right now are greener data centre architecture and industry standardisation.
For the last few years, organisations have been taking greater responsibility for the consumption of resources. As the scale of capacity quickly increases globally, Data Centres are now predicted to consume one fifth of the world’s energy by 2022. This puts the industry into the same public spotlight as sectors such as oil and gas or vehicle manufacturing.
For years, there have been target architectures around which PUE, the ratio of total amount of energy used by a datacentre to the energy delivered to computing equipment, is factored. There has been some evolution in this area but the basic principles have been the same with ‘Uptime’ remaining imperative.
The Web hosting data centres of UUNet I visited back in the early 200s are not too far removed from today’s new cloud marketplaces. You can tell they are related as they carry both grey and white genes. Uptime and PUE will always dictate the design and functionality of a single data centre.
But, for a business operating or even just using many assets, new approaches are needed. Some of the hyper-scale players have a number of science projects on the go but many struggle to turn experimentation into production. Hyper-scale datacentres also have highly specialised operations so principles are not easy to adopt elsewhere.
There are also now alternative power generation options which means that energy ecosystems are becoming more viable. This is demonstrated by Eaton’s work with both Fortum and Svenska kraftnat. Working alongside, Fortum, a leading energy provider in the Nordics and Baltic markets, for example, we have shown that the UPS can work as part of a virtual power plant.
The UPS can be used to regulate demand from the grid, as well as for up and down stream charging, to discharge the battery back to the grid. This gives datacentre operators an opportunity to work with energy providers to momentarily reduce the power demands of the data centre and even return power to the grid.

Also Eaton and our market peers are developing much smarter technologies and investing heavily in developing software applications. All this could enable a revolution in architecture. But, until recently, not many have managed to try and bring it all together. It requires vision. Eaton is engaged with a few innovative customers and consultants on next generation design projects. For the most part, however, the main approach continues to be variations on the same theme with maybe adoption of sustainable power via energy contract offsets.
In terms of standardisation, the growth in demand and wider distribution of cloud services, driven by factors such as data sovereignty and security puts strain on the current industry model. I expect that mergers and acquisitions in the colocation market will continue and, with that, a push toward more global standardisation within large co location businesses. Smaller and more application specific data centres will evolve but will have to work as systems particularly as the number of Internet of Things (IoT) applications grows.
The future is a network of standards based, ecologically sound, safe and secure data centres in many more regions and locations. This is already well understood by global telco operators. IT service providers have always understood how to deliver global service level agreements to their customers. Computing innovations once created monolithic IT with their own bespoke communications systems. We called that the computing age but it didn’t improve economic productivity. If you simplify it, the Internet age was really the computer age with enhanced standardisation. This really drove productivity and was only really achieved through the adoption over time of standards such as TCP/IP. As we move into the digital age today, investment will not be sustainable if there are not real gains in productivity or if energy consumption is unsustainable. So better standards in the systems that power and cool it all will be key.

Datacloud: What regions within Europe do you see as primed for IT asset expansion?

Northern and western European markets are most primed for IT asset expansion which also correlates to the current overall gravity of public cloud capacity in these regions. Public clouds have now addressed regulatory concerns, underpin many Government cloud services and provide secure direct connections to businesses. I am certain that this market will continue to grow and the colocation market responding. The IT service provider market is also evolving to meet demand for enterprise and Government edge and hybrid cloud in co-location or new facilities.
The upcoming GDPR regulation has had a distribution effect on public cloud and that trend is now heading South and East. With a more positive economic climate in Southern and Eastern Europe, there has been a quick response. Finally, IOT seems to have crossed the chasm for a number of basic applications that can operate in existing network environments such as smarter transportation and vehicles. With EU Governments providing much needed public investment to accelerate 5G Infrastructure, we expect there to see momentum for more critical service edge IT infrastructure in both private and public clouds with the large IT Service Provider and telecoms operators playing a key role.

Datacloud: What is one of your goals for the next year and how do you expect to achieve it?

That is easy to answer. My number one goal as the leader of this business is to improve customer experience. The vendor side of this industry has been typified by complexity. For many companies in this industry, including Eaton, this is because of growth through acquisitions. Eaton is now achieving good organic growth because it has streamlined operations and reduced complexity in the back office. The focus for Eaton is now squarely on improving the customer experience. As a business, we are passionate about making advancements in how we do things that benefit both customers and partners.
Our customers already tell us that we are an industry leader with best-in-class technologies. We know that we have some of the brightest people in the industry. Our focus now is to make some organisational changes that enable us to get more of that talent onto the front lines of our business. Investing in new systems is part of that alongside establishing a Customer Advisory Board. This is an important initiative as it gives our customers an opportunity to advise our executive leadership team on the best way for us to approach research and development and Eaton’s future direction. As we have many of the leading brands in the industry as customers it’s highly in demand and we are looking forward to the inaugural event.

Datacloud: How can our sector help to improve society?

I think there are two big things. Firstly the datacentre sector is uniquely placed to play a significant role addressing the growing challenges for national grids caused by the ongoing decentralisation of power generation and use of renewables. Taking a role to assist frequency regulation by allowing demand response is important for the stability of energy dependent digital societies. Leaders of datacentre businesses cannot afford to be watching this issue on the side lines. I am glad to say that we are already working toward this goal with some of the most enlightened leaders.
Secondly, I think there is a lot to be done around inclusion and diversity and getting people into the industry. Frankly, power electronic engineering and the parallel construction industry has lagged behind other industries when it comes to diversity. Eaton’s CEO, Craig Arnold, has achieved excellent balance at the executive level and, like myself, is passionate about driving that through our business so it becomes the culture. We are doing a lot to address diversity in age and gender. In particular, we will be exploring working with customers, partners and industry peers to do things such as engage with Schools and Colleges at a local level to inspire young people and help them understand that we work in a very exciting industry.

Mike will be at the Datacloud Europe 2018 congress in Monaco June 12-14th at Eaton Pod #2. Meet him there