What was the goal of the research?  

When data center health is so crucial to the success of a business, and the risks of mismanagement are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, through our new research, we wanted to better understand the obstacles in adopting a predictive approach to data center health management and the attitudes towards doing so.

A business’s network infrastructure is one of its most mission critical assets in today’s world. Despite its business imperative, however, even the most sophisticated organizations often do not give much thought as to how they should properly manage that asset. For the modern business to remain successful and agile, a preemptive approach to data center management is paramount to ensure safety, efficiency, and productivity. That isn’t to say there aren’t very real challenges for businesses in developing a data center health management program. Proper management is a complex process that requires around the clock facility awareness where all key stake holders are actively involved.

What was the biggest takeaway for you with the findings?

Widespread data center outages continue to gain mainstream media attention and cause major brand and financial damage as a result — we saw this recently with Azure. Despite these risks and widely available solutions fit for any size data center, our data still shows that most enterprises who implemented a health management strategy did so reactively, coming as the result of an outage or a concerned C-suite executive.

Perhaps even more interesting, the majority (80%) of the U.S. and U.K. companies’ surveyed have some level of a DCIM solution in place, which demonstrates their opportunity for implementing a highly automated health management strategy. However, our new data showcased that 20% of health management strategies are done so manually, revealing some sort of obvious disconnect in how the DCIM solutions are being leveraged or not used at all. It’s compelling when comparing the data sets as it shows that widespread DCIM adoption is occurring — which is highly motivating if you’re in the DCIM space right now — but it also shows that there is still work to be done in terms of understanding its full capabilities and overall usability by a data center management team. 

It seems most companies have only implemented a data center health management strategy once something has gone wrong. How can we move organizations from thinking reactively to proactively?

Adopting a proactive strategy is not something to be taken lightly. With that in mind, organizations need to treat the adoption of a health management strategy the same way they would any other corporate initiative, whether it be cybersecurity, equal hiring practices or corporate social responsibility. If those programs are expected to work, they necessitate dedicated resources, both from a financial and human capital standpoint.

We found that of the 37% of respondents taking a reactive approach to health management, more than a third list lack of resources and 12% listed lack of time as reasons for why they did not take a proactive approach. Data center managers are already occupied putting out fires, figuratively and sometimes literally. If their leadership does not carve out dedicated time and budget to take on data center health management as a top priority, it will always fall to the bottom of the to-do list.

I’m sure it goes without saying that your team has health management strategy in place — what advice would you give to others based on your experience?  

 Anyone working to implement a health management strategy needs to remember that Rome was not built in a day. Putting in place a new data center health management strategy is a highly complex process, even at the most sophisticated companies with seemingly infinite resources.

We saw in the data a lack of resources (15%), a lack of time (15%), and inability to track long term ROI (13%) all hinder the effectiveness of existing programs. To me, these challenges signal those organizations have not taken to heart the potential long-term value in adopting a proactive approach.

For instance, it may be hard to invest time to prevent a data center outage when that worst-case scenario seems far-fetched. While an outage may never happen, I am absolutely certain the benefits of a data center health management plan extend far beyond avoiding disaster. Over time, closely monitored assets perform better and are more efficient, with measurable gains that include lower energy use, decreased maintenance costs and slower asset depreciation rates. While it takes significant time and effort to reap these rewards, they are worth their weight in gold for those who commit to the process with the long-term vision in mind.