The Stack met up with Phil Kempson, managing director, Europe & India at Southco to chat around the key trends he is identifying in data centre physical security.

As MD at Southco, what developments are you witnessing around the physical security of data centres and critical IT equipment?

In my role at Southco, I oversee a variety of different products and markets but in recent years we have seen a sharp increase in the demand for our solutions in the data centre market. As the market continues to rapidly grow it presents a lot of opportunities and challenges for suppliers and operators.

Within the data centre industry, we see two key challenges facing the data protection industry. The first is compliance, regulatory compliance is increasing and data centre operators need to do more to not only comply with the regulations but to create an environment that delivers security to this valuable asset.

Second is human error, whereby data centre workers and operators do make mistakes and inadvertently harm the running of the centre. Loss of data or downtime can come at a huge cost to the organisation.

Data centre managers can help to mitigate those risks by controlling the who, where, and when surrounding the rack – who has access, where is that access for, and when are they able to access it (and for how long).

This has been growing in popularity, especially for co-located data centres, where the opportunity for human error and malicious damage is amplified with the increased number of people within the centre.

What are the main considerations data centre managers need to take when investing in physical security solutions for their facilities?

Many, if not all data centres will have some form of physical security embedded but managers need to consider the ease of implementation and the value that it adds to the customer when upgrading.

The ease of retrofitting current solutions is key, and depending on whether a DC manager selects a wired or wireless based solution they need to consider how the project will impact the short term day to day running of their facilities.

This is an area Southco has focussed heavily on and has and continues to work closely with many of the data centre rack providers, to offer a comprehensive range of retrofittable solutions that are easy to implement and minimise disruption in the data centre. These solutions often fit into existing panel prep and do not require any additional cutting or drilling.

As the need to incorporate enhanced physical security continues to grow, upgrades need to be done in a considered way that minimises the effect on the running of the DC. Selecting a partner who has extensive experience in implementing these projects will help to ensure a safe and secure upgrade can take place.

How can we expect access technologies to develop over the next five years with advancements in biometrics and other emerging tech?

With the growth in data being driven by what we now know as IoT (Internet of Things), that is generating more and more exponential data, whether that is for security, for finance, or for research, a lot of our target customers and applications are specifically working in those sensitive areas.

As data continues to become more critical and more sensitive it is imperative that it gets protected, with at least some level of audit trail and accountability. We do not see this slowing down any time soon and as data centres become more complex, the layers of security and the tracking capability need to be improved at every level.

We are seeing more demand to consolidate keys and access control into the mobile phone of the user. Giving the user a protected key that can only be accessed with pre-authorisation from the data centre manager for a pre-define rack, for a pre-defined length of time.

Again this is just one way we are seeing a shift in the demand from our customers.

Another area is through biometric indicators such as facial recognition, fingerprint scanning and iris recognition, as these technologies are becoming more readily available and more importantly more secure. We anticipate that the demand to incorporate these within our existing solutions will inevitably grow.

This brings another level of complexity to an already complex environment and will require a lot of pre-authorised checks to be introduced just to allow basic access, which has the potential to slow down the centre.

Although this would continue to enhance the security of the data centre at every level. It will be interesting to see how the data centre market continues to evolve over the next few years.