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We have an almost mystical faith in the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to understand and solve problems. It’s being applied across many areas of our daily lives and, as a result, the hardware to enable this is starting to populate our data centers. 

Data centers in themselves present an array of complex problems, including optimization and prediction. So, how about using this miracle technology to improve our facilities?

Machine learning, and especially deep learning, can examine a large set of data, and find patterns within it that do not depend on the model that humans would use to understand and predict that data. It can also predict patterns that will repeat in the future. 

Data centers are already well-instrumented, with sensors that provide a lot of real-time and historical data on IT performance and environmental factors. In 2016, Google hit the headlines when it applied AI to that data, in order to improve efficiency. 

Google used DeepMind, the AI technology it owns, to optimize the cooling in its data centers. In 2014, the company announced that data center engineer Jim Gao was using the AI tech to implement a recommendation engine.

In 2016, the project optimized cooling at Google’s Singapore facility, using a set of neural networks which learned how to predict future temperatures and provide suggestions to respond proactively, 

The results shaved 40 percent off the site’s cooling bill, and 15 percent off its PUE (power utilization effectiveness), according to Richard Evans, a research engineer at DeepMind. In 2016, he promised: “Because the algorithm is a general-purpose framework to understand complex dynamics, we plan to apply this to other challenges in the data center environment and beyond.”

The next step, announced in 2018, was to move closer to a self-driving data center cooling system, where the AI tweaks the data center’s operational settings – under human supervision. To make sure the system operated safely, the team constrained its operation, so the automatic system “only” saves 30 percent on the cooling bill.

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