A lights out data center is simply a set of servers that is physically isolated from an organization’s headquarters. Its primary purpose? It prevents unauthorized human access and limits the effects of environmental changes (e.g., energy fluctuations, blackouts, etc.) on a company’s productivity.
Interestingly, the term “lights out data center” has to do with blackouts caused by lightning strikes.
Other interesting terms…
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What Are the Advantages of Using a Lights Out Data Center?
Choosing to use a lights out data center offers several benefits, including but not limited to the following:
Data centers are often criticized for being energy hogs. And as climate change discussions become more serious, the presence of data centers in some countries has come into question.
In 2016, a report claimed that the world’s data centers consumed more energy than the entire U.K., making its carbon footprint similar to that of the aviation industry. By 2025, data centers are expected to account for 3.2% of the total global carbon emission. And by 2040, that figure will further rise to 14%. Given all these, a lights-out data center is seen as the key to significantly reducing carbon emissions. How? Light out data centers use less energy, thus reducing its carbon footprint.
Most lights out data centers are located far from a company’s headquarters. And that is often because users want to take advantage of optimized infrastructures and application environments. Even if their office suffers from a blackout, operations will not stop per se.
Cost and space are also factors, especially now that cities are too dense and real estate prices have gone up. Other organizations’ headquarters are also located in “chaotic” environments, putting their data centers at risk.
Most data center managers advocate shifting to lights out data centers because they typically have advanced security features. Sometimes, rookie mistakes can cause massive damage to internal systems. An example would be unintentionally overloading a power strip or accidentally damaging a fiber optic cable. Such errors are minimized by employing light out data centers whose employees are trained to deal with sensitive systems.
Lower Insurance and Operational Costs
A lights out data center is regarded as secure and low-risk by insurance companies. As such, business owners also benefit from paying lower insurance costs. Besides, the limited use of power provides additional savings.
Better Response Time
Lights out data centers can be configured to allow remote basic input/output system (BIOS) level access that lets information technology (IT) teams do cold boots (cold boots means starting up a computer that is turned off) even when they are not physically in the location. They can thus manage the servers and carry out major software updates and patches wherever they may be.
Does Using a Lights Out Data Center Have Disadvantages?
Like any other technology, lights out data centers do have disadvantages. Since servers are located away from a company’s main headquarters, all operations, such as resource management, troubleshooting, and climate control are done remotely. To accomplish these, enterprise owners would need to invest in resource management software and remote access hardware. Their IT teams must also be well-versed in carrying out remote maintenance to ensure that all operations remain optimized and secured.
Lights out data centers provide excellent environmental protection due to their energy efficiency and climate control features. They also provide savings to enterprises and ensure the safety of the data stored in them. Still, some technology experts are not comfortable with not having enough human resources readily available onsite, a characteristic that defines lights out data centers.
Undoubtedly, a balance has to be struck between efficiency, cost effectiveness, and security. And as experts continue to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of lights out data centers, the state of our data centers will continue to evolve.