Lisa Rhodes HeadshotThere’s a CIO from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY who figured out predictive analytics can tell if a student is likely to fail a course by the third week in a semester. By analyzing in-class behavior and the underlying participation and engagement online, teachers are able to identify potential issues and address them before a student becomes in danger of failing a course. 

What if those same predictive analytics were applied to a company? Based on data-intensive projects that were planned or underway, like HPC clusters or data analytics, these analytics could determine whether or not a company was at risk of failing. What would the criteria be? Surely there would be something about server density, application security and network reliability. Considering the importance of the data availability, uptime factors would need to go beyond the software and the network.

One hidden risk starting to present itself is power, or more precisely, the stability, reliability and availability of power from the electrical grid. Many CIOs might see this as outside of their control, but in reality, it needs to be factored into any decision that relates to power-hungry, data-intensive applications they are implementing for their businesses.

The globally connected world is becoming increasingly data-intensive

Enterprises worldwide are finding long-term, strategic business benefits by better analyzing and extracting more value from the data they create and gather. With data volume expected to double approximately every two years, there is enormous potential economic value to society, worth trillions of dollars.

The crippling cost of a power outage

Data centers rely on a continuous feed of power from their electric utility, which has an immediate financial impact for many companies should the grid go down. Data center outages are no longer just an inconvenience; there is a true business cost to the organization. As a result, the demand and risks on the data center are higher than ever before.

Consider the power grid profile of a data center location

There is a direct correlation between an increase in electricity demands in data centers and a decrease in the necessary power grids and infrastructure to support this growth. Many of these grids are functioning on aging infrastructures and facing increasing reliability issues and cost pressures, as well as a mandate to decarbonize electricity supply resources.

So, what is a forward thinking CIO to do? First, make sure you understand the full scope of HPC projects currently underway in your company. There may be a special project or two hidden away in a different department and you need to be aware of these projects as they now likely impact your budget and data center resources. Next, get a report card on the power grid for any location where you have data centers. The utility contract may not be part of the CIOs usual purview, but everything the office of the CIO is responsible for – including business continuity of the organization – relies heavily on the power infrastructure. Third, think about the cost of downtime associated with the applications in those data centers based on a grid outage and how that impacts your business in terms of operational and opportunity cost. Finally, think about the applications you have running at each location. Some applications, like financial trading, will dictate location based on latency, resiliency and other requirements, but many won’t. Other applications have high compute power requirements, but low latency or resiliency needs. Applications such as data analytics, HPC and scientific computing might be ideal to move to a location with a more stable power grid as a way to minimize your total risk exposure from a fragile or limited capacity grid.

Creating a model for predicting a CIO’s ability to succeed or fail with the projects they know are driving their business forward can only work if they factor in all the variables, those specific to the application and the underlying support systems (including power) that make it possible. The CIO at Marist College created a system that looked at a wide variety of factors, both overt and underlying to identify students at risk. Enterprise CIOs need to do the same.


Lisa Rhodes is responsible for all aspects of customer interaction, marketing and public relations, and has been the Vice President of Marketing for Verne Global since 2008. Over the past twenty years, she has held senior sales and operations roles in several global information and communications companies. She was Vice President of Sales at Alcatel, Senior Vice President of Sales at IPC, Director of Sales at Sycamore Networks and Senior Director at MCI. In every organization in which she has worked, Ms. Rhodes has played a leadership role, building and managing teams as small as 15 and as large as 300 with competencies in sales, software development, program management, network management, and OSS systems.

To learn more, and a checklist for business success in the data-driven world, download a free copy of Mind the Gap: Energy Availability and the Disconnect with Data.