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Why machine learning could be the next frontier for data center operations

Matthew Finnegan | Oct. 26, 2016
Machine learning offers a way to manage infrastructure and react quickly to faults without human intervention

Artificial intelligence is expected to transform a wide range of industries, as simple tasks are automated and carried out by machines. The IT sector is no different, with machine learning algorithms increasingly being targeted at automating and improving data centre operations.

A notable example has been Google, which recently revealed that it is using its own DeepMind technology to manage power consumption at its huge server farms, reducing the amount of electricity needed by 40 percent.

There is also potential for AI technology to automate functions carried out by IT operations teams. Machine learning offers a way to manage infrastructure and react quickly to faults without human intervention.

Speaking at VMworld Europe in Barcelona, Dr Wolfgang Krips, executive VP, Global Operations and GM, Amadeus IT Group - a technology vendor which supplies services to the airline industry - said the company is currently trialling the use of IBM's Watson artificial intelligence platform to monitor its data centre infrastructure.

"We are doing work together with the Watson guys at IBM to try to see whether we can use their technology in working on operations parameters, previewing incidents, overseeing coming to root causes faster, because operating at scale requires a totally different arsenal of firepower."

Amadeus runs a data centre with around 12,000 servers to support its business operations. Its infrastructure environment is smaller in comparison to the likes of Google, but like any organisation running a data centre, it is facing ever greater demands from customers for new services, while ensuring little or no down time.

"The problem space you have to deal with is becoming so complex and you are getting millions and millions of events per day. There is no human anymore that can look at it," Krips said.

"You need to deal with those things in a fully automated fashion, which means you need machines that can make decisions. That can make decisions on whether that computer now has to be shut down or whether to do something different.

"What we are currently working on is trying to figure out that at least the first remedial actions are automatically initiated and only if the machine doesn't go any further it is calling out for help.

"That is where the trend is heading and that is why we are looking into all of these areas."

VMware's chief technology officer of the EMEA region, Joe Baguley, said that the vendor - which provides software to manage data centre infrastructure - is also investigating how machine learning can benefit its customers.

"Our CTO of cloud management Mike Wookey is doing a lot of research on machine learning and AI, specifically for automation and management of platforms," he explained.


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