Building a Smarter, Brighter, and More Secure Data Center

Timothy Miscovich, Chief Commercial Officer at WTEC, shares strategies and solutions to keep your data center secure. 

Building a Smarter, Brighter, and More Secure Data Center 2

Tim Miscovich, CCO of wtec Inc.

There is no better time to focus on data center solutions, connectivity, and ensuring our organizations stay secure than today. The proliferation of remote users and connected devices have placed our data centers, whether hyperscale, enterprise, or colocation, right into the spotlight.

Just how much are we connecting today?

A new IDC forecast estimates that there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices, or “things,” generating 79.4 zettabytes (ZB) of data in 2025. In economic terms, Business Insider Intelligence forecasts that companies and consumers will spend nearly $15 trillion on IoT devices, solutions, and supporting systems by 2026.

This growth is happening for a good reason, too. The benefits of smarter systems include increased productivity, better space utilization, integration, and interconnection, the opportunity to expand into new markets and product offerings. With all of this in mind, it’s essential to pause and see how these ‘smart’ trends are actually impacting you and your data center. Consider this, the latest AFCOM State of the Data Center report indicates that 76% of respondents believe that new technologies like IoT and smart sensors will significantly impact the data center. This includes 30% who have already seen such technologies deployed within data centers.

Lighting up a more connected and secure data center

In my previous blog, we discussed how there are already great solutions to help a data center ecosystem be far more efficient and connected with modern lighting systems. However, not all ‘smart’ devices are built the same. This holds true for connected and smart lighting solutions as well. The notion of ‘connect now and secure later’ is exceedingly dangerous as more organizations (including large data center providers) fall to ransomware and even IoT attacks. When creating smarter data center systems, as many are already doing, it’s critical to understand how these solutions communicate and, most of all, how they connect.

Intelligent lighting systems with sensors and connected devices have numerous benefits. These include:

  • Real-time space occupancy and usage
  • Heat maps
  • Data exports
  • Visualization tools
  • Deep analytics
  • API integration
  • BMS integration for greater efficiency

From a security perspective, however, this is where it’s essential to dive a bit deeper. Whenever you’re working with PoE or anything else that’ll connect to your primary network, be sure to take extra precautions. For example, in 2016, the Mirai Botbet took aim at 600 thousand IoT and connected devices to create a massive DDoS attack. The resulting barrage of ‘zombie’ traffic took down several critical Internet services. This means that any time you’re working with IP addressing and active networks,  be sure to require additional levels of security and network access controls to ensure data integrity.

Whether working with MAC address isolation or IP-based security, another option is to work with network segmentation and better security designs. For example, some connected devices and even lighting systems are designed out of the box to work on VLANs to isolate components form active networks. Further, this creates a less complicated and safer system with a very low risk of interference.

Another option to improve security is that you can entirely airgap these systems if needed. That is, the only way you can access or manage an update, for example, would be through localized access.

Your smarter solutions must come with intelligent security, built-in and ready out of the box.

Also, be sure that you’re aware of how data is moving between devices and your network. That is, focus on data transmission and retention. Network security that leverages VLANs alongside data ownership solutions removes that concern by ensuring that all data is collected and stored locally. From there, the collected sensor data that’s stored locally can be set to be deleted after a specific time and can only be accessed using current state of the art encryptionstandards.

Another important point is that you create a good schema to manage all of your connected systems, including smart lighting designs. If you are working with IP-based solutions, ensure that you properly manage your IP addresses and that this traffic is isolated. A challenge many are experiencing with too many smart systems is quickly becoming known as ‘smart sprawl.’ That is, too many devices, with too many IP addresses.

Be sure to properly manage and monitor all of your devices as well as how they’re connecting. For lighting systems, you can also use gateways and other, newer solutions that allow you to have just one IP address for each engine, controlling multiple lights on a given floor or building. This means far fewer IP addresses to manage.

Finally, let’s touch on connectivity and integration. Be sure to look out for systems that have closed APIs that require physical hardware gateways. The challenge here is that you’ll lose out on potential integration points and flexibility. In some cases, you won’t connect with other building management systems or other core data center management components, like HVAC systems. As opposed to proprietary or close APIs, solutions leveraging Open API, for example, offer way more flexibility.

The Open API is used to integrate 3rd party applications into your smart lighting solution. Here are some Open API use-cases to consider:

  • 3rd party applications integrations
  • Indoor Navigation
  • Room & workstation booking
  • Temperature and Motion based alarms
  • Voice-activated data center communication
  • Light fixture dimming via App
  • Security integration
  • People & asset tracking
  • Space utilization and other analytics
  • Building, data center, or edge applications and system management

And, also importantly, with solutions that support BACnet/IP, you can establish two-way communication between your smart lighting controllers and your building management system (BMS) as well as its subsystems (e.g., your HVAC system). In some cases, this allows you to decrease utility costs by more than 30% as you can use the sensor data to optimize building operation. So, you can do things like presence-based control of ventilation, heating and air conditioning, and even manual control of devices (e.g., switches).

Keeping the Lights On

Lighting control and efficiency have come a long way. Now, these are solutions that deeply integrate with other core functions of the data center. This includes Bluetooth beaconing to understand better heatmaps and space utilization, voice-control, asset and people tracking, and actionable data analytics. However, as more smart devices light up the data center, it’s essential to take connectivity and security into consideration. Like we mentioned earlier, you cannot ‘connect now and secure later.’ Your smarter solutions must come with intelligent security, built-in and ready out of the box. This includes everything from lighting systems to door sensors. Keep those lights on, but do so intelligently.

Timothy Miscovich is the Chief Commercial Officer at WTEC. 

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