Many data centers, including most built before 2001, are at risk of outstripping their power and cooling capacities. Data centers already consume 10 to 30 times more energy per square foot than the typical office building — a figure that continues to grow. In fact, energy costs represent the single largest component of a data center’s operating expenses, and a potential barrier to future expansion. Compounding this challenge, today’s data centers are actively increasing agility and striving to maintain high standards of uptime while improving energy efficiency.
That’s where a data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution can help. A unified monitoring and management solution, DCIM gathers, presents, and analyzes system-wide data in detail to identify opportunities for cost savings, downtime prevention, and energy efficiency across information technology (IT) and facilities domains. It provides common views and workspaces to visualize power and thermal data, linked to hardware and business services.
A recent Eaton survey of endusers throughout the world found that while data center managers typically use between seven and 42 management systems, they would prefer to consolidate to no more than two. DCIM software serves as a means to help consolidate management systems. However, some endusers in the survey cited difficulties such as difficulty in installation and long learning curves.
But there’s hope. By making an informed purchasing decision, which includes attention to integration and architecture, data centers can implement a turnkey DCIM solution that can increase operational efficiency, mitigate risk, and enhance performance, while improving productivity. As most of the common misconceptions regarding DCIM solutions are associated with implementation and operation pitfalls, the following recommendations will help users avoid these missteps, enable them to better understand the health of IT and facilities infrastructures, and proactively address issues or opportunities on the horizon.
EXISTING SYSTEMS INTEGRATION
During the planning process, managers need to assess existing systems and data to determine the most effective methods to integrate components or convert them to formats that can be imported into databases. They also need to plan to integrate e-commerce business subsystems.
Neither IT nor facilities alone can optimize energy consumption and system availability across the entire environment.
By embracing DCIM, organizations can bring consistency, predictability, and control to operational metrics while improving service assurance. DCIM provides the integrated framework and automated formulas needed to convert metrics into meaningful analytics. From centralizing data collection, managing physical capacity and assets, and integrating with critical IT management applications, DCIM unifies the processes, tools, and raw data needed to provide an accurate view of data center performance across both IT and facilities.
DATA ACQUISITION AND QUALITY
To gain accurate real time data, data center managers need software that leverages existing or easily accessible instrumentation. They need data mapping capabilities to be part of the user interface so as to facilitate easy data acquisition. They also need analytics to flag any problems with data quality.
DATA STRUCTURE AND STORAGE
When implementing a DCIM platform, managing massive volumes of data can be a challenge. The translation and standardization process can present challenges to data center managers applying DCIM, making the scalability of the rollout process very important. The architectural layout is also critical, and choosing flexible hardware will serve data center managers well. It is also beneficial to select a vendor and a product based on evidence of successful performance capabilities.
EFFECTIVE AND PROACTIVE ALERTING
After surpassing the integration and data acquisition challenges faced while implementing DCIM, data center managers can start focusing on establishing useful alerts. With the right platform, DCIM allows aggregation of alerts across multiple domains and systems, including the ability to alert while facilitating the integration of facilities and IT assets.
Advanced tool features, such as pattern-based intelligence, can be leveraged to inform alerting and help to avoid false positives.
AUTHENTICATION AND ACCESS
Ease of access to a new DCIM system can streamline the implementation process.
A single sign-on can be utilized to avoid password challenge errors. Using Active Directory, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), or other user directories further simplify the login process. Depending on security tolerance, mobile interfaces can provide an additional option for users.
IMPLEMENTATION IN PHASES
Prioritizing use cases in phases can simplify DCIM implementation. Gradual implementation generally leads to fewer complications while providing the opportunity to evaluate the process of each operation.
BRIDGING THE GAP
DCIM provides organizations with greater insight into critical data center infrastructure across both facilities and IT systems. Many companies offer complementary functionality to help data center managers increase operational efficiency, mitigate risk, and enhance performance.
Combined solutions also enable managed service providers to grow their business by providing high-value DCIM-as-a-service offerings that include monitoring and maintenance of customers’ critical infrastructure and business systems.
When it comes to energy management and DCIM implementation, it is important that a single solution can provide the best of both worlds. Power and cooling management can be included in IT service tools such as CA Nimsoft, or in virtualization management systems like VMware vCenter. Regardless, the integration of energy management will create valuable benefits for data center operators desperately short on time, including direct access to energy information with the same login and password used for the main system. This type of solution also reduces training, as the module will already be included in a familiar dashboard; and the elimination of redundancy created by a variety of different software solutions.
For example, with an end-to-end view of IT and facilities resources, services, and assets — aligned with business objectives — an organization can:
Dynamically provision servers to respond to energy situations, such as unexpected spikes in usage that could affect the load on the underlying infrastructure.
- Give the IT team visibility into its energy consumption and the status and capacity of the power chain devices that provide this energy, to intelligently balance workloads, optimize energy usage, and control costs.
- Identify ways to improve energy efficiency along with data center infrastructure efficiency (DCiE) and power usage effectiveness (PUE) metrics.
- Provide charge-backs to users based on the actual energy consumption of their IT services, instead of blanket figures based on square footage or other imprecise measures.
Virtually every IT equipment manufacturer is working hard to introduce next-generation devices offering significantly higher energy efficiency than those currently used in data centers. They will provide more compute bang for the buck, but will introduce ever greater power and cooling requirements in the data center. Preparing for future changes to the data center points to DCIM as an indispensable tool, but only if it is implemented effectively.
Attention to integration and architecture is key. Knowing that the solution you are investing in has proven integration and scalable architecture will go a long way to getting you on the road to a successful DCIM implementation.