Organizations are increasingly trusting colocation data centers to store, protect, monitor and repair critical technology infrastructure and data, according to BCC Research. The analyst firm predicts the colocation data center market will grow at a 15.4% CAGR and reach $54.8 billion worldwide in 2020.
As more organizations look to data centers to house their mission-critical equipment and protect their brands, colocation data centers are adding value by developing and deploying business-intelligence (BI) platforms. This growing movement gives operators a single pane of glass for monitoring the facility’s overall health, conducting preventative maintenance and even forecasting infrastructure requirements. These same BI platforms provide personal views for each colocation customer.
The Colocation Data Center Landscape
Unsurprisingly, great diversity appears in colocation data centers. Every customer brings unique challenges, from varied IT capabilities and footprints to different power and cooling requirements. Those requirements depend on the age of the IT equipment and differences across manufacturers, makes and models.
In addition, colocation data centers will vary on the basis of overall design, topology, architecture and capacity, as well as by building and facility footprint. Location can be critical for a data center and its customers, and the design can differ greatly depending on the building layout and the number of tenants it serves—for instance, whether it’s a single-story, single-tenant building or a multistory, multitenant building.
For the data center operator, data coming from a variety of sources—infrastructure and sensors enabling a multitude of protocols and properties—necessitates a means for normalizing and merging the data into a single view so engineering and operations personnel can apply consistent processes and practices. All of this diversity drives the overarching need for BI platforms that help clients maintain a custom view to manage and secure their critical IT infrastructure in the colocation data center.
IoT: Alive and Well in the Data Center
Today’s data centers are filled with IoT devices or, more specifically, a network of sensors ranging from temperature and humidity sensors to biometric security devices and RFID equipment tags. These devices collect power-consumption and environmental data in addition to enforcing multiple layers of physical protection. When merged with business data such as services purchased and invoiced, status of IT deployment and refresh cycles, or reserved and pending capacity increases, the information gleaned from a reliable BI platform enables engineering and operations personnel to forecast trends and tune infrastructure to maintain the most efficient operating profile. Operators now have the data to monitor and trend metrics such as power usage efficiency (PUE). Both operations personnel and customers can receive alerts if equipment is overheating or has been moved without proper authorization, allowing them to immediately remedy the situation.
Monitoring and Maximizing Data Center Efficiency
These ever changing demands on data centers clearly show that a reliable BI platform, providing a single pane of glass with different views and capabilities for both customers and the operator, benefits clients and providers alike. It allows the data center operator to identify and focus on operational issues specific to a customer and to actively work with customers to ensure they are getting the most from the services they’re buying.
Both the operator and customer should have access to the BI platform so they can regularly review capacity, cooling and power needs as well as trends—all on a single screen—and thus make informed decisions. These views must be customized to the customer’s needs, and they must intelligently correlate multiple data points to protect the customer’s business.
For example, few data center infrastructure management (DCIM) systems can correlate the use of a primary and redundant power circuit to ensure the customer isn’t exceeding that circuit’s capacity. A robust BI platform, however, can do so. Although such a task sounds simple, improper monitoring and management can cause a customer to lose their desired service redundancy. If one redundant power circuits fails, the remaining one will suffer an overload, and the entire customer service will go down. Intelligent monitoring, trending and alerting can prevent such a disaster.
A BI platform that allows colocation customers to define monitoring thresholds relevant to their business objectives—not necessarily specific to technical risk—enables everyone in a multitenant environment to actively watch over critical elements. They can predict and forecast when they’ll need more of something from the data center operator, such as another cabinet, more power or more IP bandwidth. Using BI, they can make budget and operational plans before a technical need arises.
The ability to watch trends and data at an infrastructure-element level, enabled by a BI platform that can associate disparate data into a single comprehensive view, also enables engineering and operations personnel to correlate information that would otherwise go unnoticed. For example, if data on a power panel can be correlated with usage data at a per-breaker level, as well as correlated with breaker trip or failure data along with vendor/manufacturer data, the operator could identify and monitor trends to prevent future failures.
Business Intelligence for More Than Power and Cooling
BI platforms aren’t just vital for DCIM decisions, however. Systems that capture people’s entry and egress into the data center contribute to compliance reporting and help reduce operational risk. Security information is captured on the basis of entry and multifactor authentication, providing a security log and demonstrating proof of compliance. If data centers provide robust BI platforms, their customers can control and mitigate risk by participating in reporting audits for their risk-assessment needs. Not every BI system puts power in the hands of customers, so they should ask their providers whether this compliance feature is available.
Bringing operational and business data together to empower customers and empower data center engineering and operations to drive reliability through information is a trend that’s gaining steam. As organizations determine the best place to store and protect data, BI tools that monitor, alert and protect vital equipment are quickly becoming imperative. Organizations can no longer afford to be in the dark with regard to power and cooling requirements, support for trending and preventive maintenance, and regulatory compliance. BI platforms providing a comprehensive and custom view of complex and diverse colocation data centers can empower operators and customers alike to make the most effective use of the environment, each focusing on what’s most important to the business.
About the Author
Ali Marashi is vXchnge’s SVP of Engineering and CTO, responsible for all engineering, construction, network and IT functions for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in developing and supporting engineering and IT systems. Most recently, Ali served as VP of IBX Ops Engineering for Equinix.