Modern data centers are so much more than stacks of servers. Spanning nearly 1.000.000 square meters with cutting-edge technology and equipment, data centers contain everything needed to store, manage, and distribute an immense amount of data.

With the addition of virtual assets, such as cloud-based resources, to infrastructure, organizations are unlocking the full potential of their data centers. Yet, as complexity increases, the need for sophisticated management and maintenance also increases. To achieve future-proof data center infrastructure management (DCIM), seamless integration and communication between physical and virtual systems, as well as coordination between different teams responsible for managing each component, is required.

Modern DCIM software not only meets these requirements, it also enables organizations to support new market-given requirements and tools to enhance operations — for example, augmented reality (AR).

Streamlining operational tasks with AR

Surprisingly, it’s still common practice for employees to write required information down on a piece of paper before they find, replace, repair, or add a certain resource within the data center. An AR solution can streamline these operational tasks by providing all relevant information to employees digitally — eliminating the need for them to manually search for information and write it down. The result is an optimized and simplified work process covering various areas, including visualization, maintenance, troubleshooting, and training.

Visualization — AR can be used to create a visual representation of data center resources, such as servers, switches, and storage devices, overlaid on the real-world view with additional information, like asset IDs, cable identifiers, and service designations. This enables data center operators and technicians to quickly identify locations of resources and visualize their interconnections.

Maintenance — AR can be used to provide step-by-step guidance for maintenance and repair tasks, such as replacing a failed component or performing a firmware upgrade. While executing these tasks, AR can display information about which tools are needed and the steps to follow overlaid on the technician’s view. This helps to reduce errors and speeds up the maintenance process.

Troubleshooting — AR can be used to identify problems in data centers by visualizing metrics and alerts and displaying relevant info about the problem (e.g., systems affected, recommended actions, etc.) overlaid on the technician’s view. This reduces the amount of time and effort required to diagnose and solve issues.

Training — AR can be used to train data center operators and technicians by overlaying virtual training material on real-world equipment. This improves efficiency and effectiveness by providing a more engaging, interactive training experience.

Solving common challenges

Data center operators are currently facing both market-specific and cross-market challenges. Two of the biggest challenges today are climate change and the labor shortage.

Addressing climate change

AR enables operators to improve the efficiency of equipment usage, reduce energy usage, and reduce emissions outside of and inside data center facilities. With a strong database, data center operators get the greatest possible transparency about all systems used as well as the applications and services that run on them to optimally distribute them. Thereby, investments in new equipment can often be postponed if the ports in use are analyzed in detail to identify obsolete connections. These ports can then be rededicated to another purpose, making it possible to only purchase as much equipment as necessary.

To reduce energy usage, quality documentation is key. A few examples include identifying and eliminating orphaned equipment that is no longer performing a useful purpose and increasing transparency about the thermal load to avoid hotspots.

When it comes to reducing emissions, data center managers must first reduce unnecessary technician dispatches. By identifying all issues in an area before sending out the field service team, managers can ensure technicians are prepared to address all of the problems in one trip instead of several. In the case of components that need to be replaced, required assets can be precisely determined in advance. This allows the technicians to take the right equipment with them and avoid repeated trips to the site.

Additionally, AR lends itself to improved asset management, which means no premature equipment replacement.

With the help of AR, experts don’t even have to travel to the data center in the event of an issue. Instead, instructions can be given remotely to the technician on-site through the use of a AR solution supporting full-scale glasses on any mobile device. Training sessions can also be held via AR technology, therefore eliminating the need for employees to travel to training centers, significantly reducing emissions.

Stagnating and shrinking resources

An AR solution is one way to manage the labor shortage. With AR, on-site data center technicians can receive real-time support for complex maintenance procedures from experts located around the world.

Leveraging the power of AR, data center operators can also ensure their techs are better equipped to handle complex equipment and procedures, reducing risks of errors and downtime. This can lead to increased efficiency, reduced costs, and improved uptime.

Business benefits

Overall, traditional DCIM tools have reached their limits in today’s data center environment. Integrated tools, standards, and data models that enable seamless, efficient, and future-proof management of IT infrastructure are needed. In addition to utilizinga central DCIM solution to document and manage network, data center, and cloud resources, integrating innovative AR technology into data center processes offers numerous benefits outlined below.

Efficient data center processes

  • Centralized management of multiple locations
  • High transparency and data quality
  • Reduced operating costs

State-of-the-art change management

  • Accurate planning and execution of changes
  • Prediction of impact of changes before rollout
  • Easier execution of changes with AR-supported operation

Less downtime and outages

  • Quick localization of IT infrastructure issues
  • Fast alarming and troubleshooting
  • Quick navigation through the data center and solving process

Transparency and security

  • Greater operational reliability
  • End-to-end visibility and reporting
  • Less false positive alarms

Matthias Gromann is director of business line IT and data center solutions at FNT Software. He has many years of experience as an IT technology expert and is FNT's topic leader for service-oriented automation in infrastructure management. In his role, he shapes FNT's solution approaches for enterprise IT, helping companies to achieve greater transparency, more security, and increased productivity in the operation of critical infrastructures.