Data Center Infrastructure Software: What’s Out There?

July 25, 2012 4 Comments »
Data Center Infrastructure Software: What’s Out There?

If ensuring near-perfect uptime is a goal for your data center, then monitoring and managing your infrastructure is an important capability. Even brief incidents of downtime can result in large business losses, especially because the damage is not limited to, say, the amount of time that power to the IT equipment is cut off: once power is restored, servers must be rebooted and other maintenance tasks may need to be performed, all of which takes time. With the growing demand for IT services and, all too often, a shrinking or unchanging number of IT personnel to service the infrastructure, a centralized interface for monitoring and managing data center infrastructure is very beneficial. Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software is thus becoming an increasingly integral part of data centers whose reliability is a high priority.

To meet these needs, a number of companies offer software to enable DCIM deployments. Although this article does not review every product available, it does look briefly at a sampling of products offered by various companies. As with any purchase, no one vendor or product serves the needs of all potential applications: data center managers must evaluate the requirements for their specific facilities relative to the features and cost of each product, then choose the one that best (but probably not perfectly) fits those requirements. With that, here are some available options.

  • APC by Schneider Electric StruxureWare for Data Centers. Described as “a management software suite designed to collect and manage data about a data center’s assets, resource use and operation status,” (“StruxureWare for Data Centers”), this software offers a number of tools for collecting and processing data for energy efficiency, equipment usage and capacity, and operational expenses. Software modules include, for instance, StruxureWare Data Center Operation, which enables data center managers to monitor and manage inventory through information like real-time device failure notification and power usage effectiveness (PUE) calculation. Data Center Operation: Mobile uses Motorola MC75 hardware (bar-code scanning) to deliver information to data center managers on the go. Other modules provide more information on energy usage and efficiency (Data Center Operation: Energy Efficiency), infrastructure planning and optimization (Data Center Operation: Capacity) and change tracking (Data Center Operation: Change). Features of the software include a live dashboard for custom display of data using a web browser, support for blade server configurations, inventory reporting, and status alarms.
  • iTracs Converged Physical Infrastructure Management. This iTracs offering is a suite of DCIM software designed for managing enterprise-class data center infrastructure. The suite consists of two modules that can be deployed separately or as a unit: iTracs Converged Data Center for managing a facility’s internal physical infrastructure, and iTracs Converged Building Systems for managing infrastructure beyond the boundaries of the data center. The Converged Physical Infrastructure Management (CPIM) package that is designed around iTracs’ unique Interactive 3D Visualization, which enables virtual navigation of the data center environment in three dimensions, providing a powerful view of the facility from a computer terminal. Stated benefits of the software include single-pane-of-glass display of information that data center personnel need to manage, monitor and identify potential problems in the infrastructure. The software targets full utilization of resources and life-cycle management for systems in the facility.
  • Emerson Network Power Trellis. The Trellis platform employs Emerson Network Power’s various software offerings, including management of assets, cooling design, power and embedded server firmware. The integrated platform provides several applications, including Inventory Manager, which delivers fast details on currently deployed inventory and capacity as well as the ability to speed deployment of new equipment. The Trellis Change Planner enables better change tracking—a critical capability as the data center grows or adjusts to increase capacity while maintaining or improving efficiency—and the Power System Manager enables tracing of power distribution to identify operating status and dependencies among devices, as well as potential problems before they result in data center downtime. The Energy Insight application provides data on energy efficiency (such as power usage effectiveness) and energy consumption, enabling tracking of efficiency particularly as improvements or expansions are made to the data center. To provide unified management and monitoring capability, Emerson offers the Avocent Universal Management Gateway appliance, which delivers single-pane-of-glass visibility, as well as “true, real-time, integrated monitoring, access and control across IT and facilities systems in the data center,” according to the company (“Avocent Universal Management Gateway”).
  • Rackwise Data Center Manager. Rackwise’s flagship Data Center Manager software package integrates its Data Center Essentials, Data Center Intelligence and Real World Integration. Data Center Essentials includes a number of modules, such as Visualization, which uses Internet Explorer and Visio-based interfaces to provide visibility into data center infrastructure status and deployments, as well as design capabilities. Other aptly named modules include Asset Management, Power Management, Cable Management and Virtual Machine Management. Rackwise’s Real Time Monitoring manages data for temperature, humidity and power collected from a variety of device types. The software also enables modeling for data center design—as well as optimization, capacity planning, trending and other functions through the company’s Data Center Intelligence. Real World Integration’s integration-layer web-services API enables the software to work with other packages and databases.
  • Nlyte Suite. Another DCIM offering is Nlyte’s suite of software modules, which comes in editions starting at the entry-level Express Edition and including the Standard and Advanced editions, culminating with the full-feature Enterprise Edition. The flagship Enterprise Edition includes a number of modules, such as the Floor Planner Module, Control Module, Report Module, Open Web Services APIS, Dashboard Module, Predict Module and Bulk Data Manager. The Dashboard Module, for instance, enables viewing of a variety of data windows using a standard browser interface. Dashboards can be customized for tailored visibility in the data center, or the data center manager can use preset dashboards provided with the software. The software aims to meet a range of requirements in the data center, focusing on visualization of infrastructure, modeling, discovery of assets, control of the facility, and reporting and predicting using available data.

Data centers are complex facilities, integrating a variety of systems that must all function (nearly) flawlessly to enable delivery of IT services to customers (whether in the company or outside it). This complexity makes management and monitoring of infrastructure an extremely difficult task, especially as companies pare down their staffs (or, at least, maintain existing staff levels while demanding more IT services). Thus, the data center infrastructure management market is booming. Data center managers are looking for solutions that enable a consolidated view of the data center and that provide information on the various systems. Design and modification assistance are also valuable. The above DCIM packages are just a few of the available options, and they are discussed briefly in no particular order. If you’re looking for a DCIM package for your data center, these offerings are a place to start looking, but they may or may not be a fit for your situation—be sure to also consider other vendors, who may have just what you’re looking for to manage and monitor your data center.

Photo courtesy of IntelFreePress

About Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark is editor for the Data Center Journal. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Richmond, as well as master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech. An author and aspiring renaissance man, his interests range from quantum mechanics and processor technology to drawing and philosophy.

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