Industry Outlook is a regular Data Center Journal Q&A series that presents expert views on market trends, technologies and other issues relevant to data centers and IT.
This week, Industry Outlook asks Russell Senesac, Director of Data Center Business Development for Schneider Electric, about data center management as a service (DMaaS). Russell has been with the company for more than 16 years; he currently focuses on driving data center business-development initiatives. He joined the company’s APC (formerly American Power Conversion Corporation) division in 1996, working in sales and product management.
Industry Outlook: What is the current state of the data center industry?
Russell Senesac: As demands for immediate access and application availability continue to increase, data center and IT environments are becoming more critical, hybrid and distributed. As a result, management is increasingly complex, as operators must now support a multitude of deployment sites—from on premises and cloud to colocation and edge applications. Managing and operating these vast and complex environments holistically is driving a need to provide a solution that delivers visibility across and within an entire IT ecosystem for benchmarking, trend analysis, intelligence maintenance and more, all while reducing risks and increasing efficiency.
IO: What’s driving change and creating new challenges for data center operators?
RS: In recent years, a variety of new trends have been affecting the market—first is the Internet of Things (IoT). By expanding the ecosystem of connected devices, IoT has vastly increased the volume of machine data and the outsourcing of many enterprise applications into the cloud. What’s more, it has driven the rise of distributed IT environments and edge data centers, as the ability to process critical data closer to the source ensures availability and connectivity for an always-on generation of users.
Across this domain, data center managers are experiencing the emerging dilemma of increasing operational efficiency and availability in an industry that relies on a break-fix program to meet the service and maintenance requirements of both mission-critical infrastructure and local edge facilities. Clearly, a new and dynamic approach to data center operations is required.
IO: Does traditional data center infrastructure management (DCIM) have limitations?
RS: With data centers becoming more distributed, it’s difficult to gather a full overview and analysis of an IT ecosystem’s health through a traditional DCIM model. Standard DCIM requires monitoring software installations at every data center site deployed by an organization, which can be time consuming, costly and inefficient when comparing performance across environments. With single-system data center and IT management software, operators have found it increasingly difficult to gain necessary visibility into their complex and diversified data center and IT systems across on premises, cloud and colocation.
As a critical component to data center infrastructure, if DCIM is going to live up to its potential, it needs to become more advanced. As such, operators are turning to a cloud-first management strategy to provide a simpler and more streamlined deployment and increased visibility to assets, known as data center management as a service (DMaaS).
IO: What is DMaaS?
RS: Comprising an integrated portfolio of both hardware and software solutions, DMaaS enables optimization of the IT layer by simplifying, monitoring and servicing data center physical infrastructure from the edge to the enterprise. Using cloud-based software, it promises real-time operational visibility, alarms and shortened resolution times without all of the costs associated with deploying an on-premises DCIM solution.
DMaaS is quick to deploy and low cost, and it provides real-time insights into the data center anywhere, anytime through a smartphone or other mobile device. By gathering information from cloud-connected machines, it provides better management information to the data center operator.
IO: How does it address these industry challenges?
RS: As challenges resulting from new technologies take hold of the data center, DMaaS offers a variety of benefits. Foremost, it provides around-the-clock remote data center monitoring with immediate access and visibility into diverse multilocation IT environments. A cloud-based monitoring system can employ predictive insights to reduce downtime and increase performance across an entire data center portfolio. Additionally, as DMaaS allows for complete visibility across an IT ecosystem, data center administrators can rapidly and securely scale management systems, without limit, to meet the demand of new technology and site expansion.
IO: Is this type of technology already in use?
RS: Cloud-based DCIM is a recent introduction to data center monitoring services, initially implemented as a response to the proliferation of edge data centers and the requirement for always-on connectivity. Now, DMaaS is growing in stature as a fast-lane approach to on-premises DCIM monitoring. Although newer to the market, this technology is seeing fast adoption because its open IoT approach provides visibility across the entire hybrid ecosystem, helping operators boost infrastructure performance and mitigate risk by providing visibility across the entire data center portfolio.
IO: What role will new technologies, such as big data, machine learning and analytics, play in DMaaS?
RS: With information accumulated across a range of connected operating and environmental conditions, big data and analytics are important to both understanding the physical infrastructure layer and enabling better decision making. Through cloud-based DCIM, data is gathered into a data lake where analytics can be applied and turned into custom recommendations to increase data center performance. From a big data perspective, cloud-based remote monitoring brings advantages that point monitoring solutions can’t match. As a result, DMaaS-enabled analytics allow data center operators to move toward predictive maintenance through condition-based services.
As connected services collect data about equipment in a range of operating conditions, DMaaS becomes more intelligent about maintenance requirements, using machine learning to analyze data for more-granular guidance on issues such as the likelihood of failures and the conditions surrounding an outage. In any event, DMaaS gives data center managers more choice and control when it comes to maintenance.