The Data Center Infrastructure Challenge
To support the increasing demands of the enterprise, data centers have become denser and more complex. Unfortunately, data center managers often must rely on fragmented, historical data to manage this complexity. One specific consequence of the lack of real-time visibility across data center systems is significant inefficiencies in the allocation of physical resources, including power, cooling and space. With the added challenges of increasing energy costs and stricter regulatory requirements, these inefficiencies are hindering overall growth and have become an industry-wide problem.
The problem is that the tools used to provide access and control of IT systems are different from those used to monitor the physical facilities infrastructure, and in the past the two sets of tools have not been able to “talk” to one another. This situation has required organizations to purchase multiple products for KVM, service processor management, power monitoring and sensor control.
What has been missing is true, real-time data center infrastructure management (DCIM) that brings together these disparate tools, regardless of vendor, into one proactive management solution. The benefits of such a solution include:
- Reduced infrastructure complexity and greater IT agility
- Active management of operating costs
- More-efficient utilization of space, power and cooling resources
- Flexibility to adapt to future technologies
DCIM allows for the alignment of IT and facilities by enabling coordination and standardization of processes that lead to optimized performance, capacity and availability. It is able to do this effectively because there is a single “source of truth” that contains the comprehensive and complete information both need to perform their respective functions—everything from active alarm management to capacity forecasting.
Unfortunately, today many companies are trying to “stitch together” the various tools and products from a variety of vendors to plan and manage their data center. Doing so requires significant initial and ongoing costs to maintain the integrations. And, solutions such as these don’t offer the real-time view into the infrastructure to more precisely manage the physical infrastructure.
View the Data Center as a Whole
What companies need is a solution that includes all aspects of the data center and is neither IT- nor facilities-only focused, because the equipment, software and hardware all must work together as a whole.
For example, if virtualization places an extra computing load on a set of servers, the power being consumed by those servers increases, directly affecting the power system. Soon after, the amount of heat being produced by the servers increases, requiring more cooling. Across all systems, one fault or problem has the potential to affect many other systems and ultimately the performance of the data center.
In other words, the data center should be treated holistically. This requires a solution that crosses the boundaries between IT and facilities and has some core capabilities. For example, the solution must be able to create a catalog of the inventory and to record connections and relationships between devices. These capabilities allow users to see what they have, how it is connected and how systems are interdependent. Most importantly, they also reveal how much capacity exists. Without real-time performance data, however, the model of inventory and interconnections must rely exclusively on nameplate capacities and modeled loads and cannot accurately depict how much capacity remains to be used, because the loads are not actual. DCIM in many ways is extending the operating principles and practices known in the IT service management system into the physical layer.
Consider the Value of Real-Time Capabilities
The value of the real-time platform is the ability to understand the current health/performance of the data center and to see the impact of changes that are made in real time. This approach allows the customer to closely manage and control the devices and impact of the operation.
The addition of a closely integrated, real-time capability into the solution allows the user to see exactly how the equipment is performing and, therefore, how much capacity remains for use, increasing resource utilization and postponing capital investments in new infrastructure. In addition, the real-time capability allows the DCIM solution to aggregate alarm or warning conditions in one place for the data center operators to view and make decisions. These decisions can be made using the cataloging, relationship and dependency information provided by the solution based on actual consumption and remaining capacity information.
In short, with real-time access, the user has access to all the information needed to make decisions, without relying on external sources, spreadsheets, estimates or educated guesses. This also significantly accelerates the decision-making process while reducing errors.
When aligned with real-time DCIM, holistic management of all facilities and IT resources in the data center offers the potential to increase agility and flexibility, lower costs and reduce operational risk. Real-time DCIM solutions can do the following:
- Enable resources to be provisioned up to 45 percent faster
- Increase mean time to repair up to 25 percent
- Increase operational efficiencies by 70 percent
- Lower energy costs up to 35 percent
- Reduce stranded capacity by 25 percent
A single, integrated DCIM platform can also ensure consistent achievement of SLA objectives and reduce software integration and administration costs by an additional 25 percent.
With the rapid adoption of virtualization for mission-critical workloads, the ability of DCIM to provide in-depth infrastructure visibility becomes increasingly important. As cloud computing grows, the ability to manage heterogeneous resources also has a significant impact on business performance. DCIM capabilities will be critical to reducing inefficiencies and stranded capacity and to increasing agility and flexibility. As fabric computing becomes more widespread, DCIM will need to align the facilities infrastructure with compute resource pools, requiring tight integration of DCIM with IT systems performance including workloads, applications and ITSM tools.
Plan for the Future
The data center of the future will consist of highly virtualized resource pools that are managed in a holistic manner designed to deliver IT as a service and business service management for cloud, traditional and hybrid environments. A unified, real-time platform for DCIM designed for closed-loop control—in which information is shared by the IT and facilities-monitoring access control systems—and optimization will be critical to realizing the full potential of these next-generation data centers.
The technology to meet today’s data center needs and prepare for this future is available. Managers should review their options closely when selecting a DCIM solution to ensure it offers real-time management capabilities.
(Data center photo courtesy of NeoSpire)
About the Author