Worldwide demand for new and more powerful IT-based applications, combined with the economic benefits of consolidation of physical assets, has led to an unprecedented expansion of data centers in both size and density. Limitations of space and power, along with the enormous complexity of managing a large data center, have given rise to a new category of tools with integrated processes — Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM).
Once properly deployed, a comprehensive DCIM solution provides data center operations managers with clear visibility of all data center assets along with their connectivity and relationships to support infrastructure — networks, copper and fiber cable plants, power chains and cooling systems. DCIM tools provide data center operations managers with the ability to identify, locate, visualize and manage all physical data center assets, simply provision new equipment and confidently plan capacity for future growth and/or consolidation. These tools can also help control energy costs and increase operational efficiency. Gartner predicts that DCIM tools will soon become the mainstream in data centers, growing from 1% penetration in 2010 to 60% in 2014.
This document will discuss some important data center infrastructure management issues. We’ll also take a look at how a DCIM product can provide data center managers with the insight, information and tools they need to simplify and streamline operations, automate data center asset management, optimize the use of all resources — system, space, power, cooling and staff — reduce costs, project data center capacities to support future requirements and even extend data center life.
The trend for consolidation and construction of ever larger data centers has been basically driven by economy-of-scale benefits. This trend has been accelerated and facilitated by technological advances such as Web-based applications, system virtualization, more powerful servers delivered in a smaller footprint and an overabundance of low-cost bandwidth.
Not many years ago, most computer sites were sufficiently small so that the local, dedicated IT and facilities staff could reasonably manage most everything with manual processes and tools such as spreadsheets and Visio diagrams. It has now become painfully clear that IT and facilities professionals need better tools and processes to effectively manage the enormous inventory of physical assets and the complexity of the modern data center infrastructure. Experience shows that once a data center approaches 50-75 racks, management via spreadsheets and Visio becomes unwieldy and ineffective.
In addition, the outward expansion and increasing rack density of modern data centers have created serious space and energy consumption concerns, prompting both corporate as well as government regulatory attention and action. IDC has forecasted that data center power and cooling costs will rise from $25 billion in 2005 to almost $45 billion in 2010. Moreover, in a recent Data Center Dynamics research study, U.S. and European data center managers stated that their three largest concerns were increasing rack densities, proper cooling and power consumption. Seemingly overnight, the need for data center infrastructure and asset management tools has now become an overwhelming, high-priority challenge for IT and facilities management.
At the highest level, the enterprise data center should be organized and operated to deliver quality service reliably, securely and economically to support the corporate mission. However, the natural evolution of roles and responsibilities among three principal groups within the data center — facilities, networking and systems — has in itself made this objective less achievable. Responsibilities have historically been distributed based on specific expertise relating to the physical layers of the infrastructure:
Clearly one major challenge is bridging the responsibilities and activities among various data center functions to minimize the delays, waste and potential operational confusion that can easily arise due to each group’s well-defined, specific roles.
Basic DCIM components and functions include:
With Raritan’s dcTrack, your data center floor map can be linked in real-time to an AutoCAD® or Visio floor plan. Any changes made to the CAD background are immediately visible and recognized as new objects.
A comprehensive DCIM solution will directly address the major issues of asset management, system provisioning, space and resource utilization and future capacity planning. Most importantly, it will provide an effective bridge to support the operational responsibilities and dependencies between facilities and IT personnel to eliminate the potential silos.
DCIM at work to help you with daily operations
Perhaps the easiest way to appreciate the value that DCIM can deliver to your data center is to first consider a few simple questions that come up daily in a typical data center. Then ask yourself, how you would answer them and how quickly:
Think about the specific steps you will need to take with your current processes in order to answer each of those questions:
With a properly deployed DCIM, you will be able to visualize the entire data center instantly and drill down to any desired level of granularity to answer these and many other questions with just a few clicks of a mouse.
Furthermore, your DCIM can provide you with the automated tools and what-if models to simplify any required system moves or new system provisioning, while taking maximum advantage of existing space, power and cooling capacity.
DCIM at work to help you plan for a better tomorrow
Beyond dealing with the daily tasks and problems, every data center manager has a host of opportunities to improve overall performance, reduce costs and optimize the use of existing resources by means of proactive analysis, planning, action and management. Again, consider a few more questions that, when answered, can lead to operational improvements:
Once again your DCIM will prove invaluable by collecting, mining and analyzing actual historic operational data. DCIM reports, what-if analysis and modeling will help identify opportunities for operational improvement and cost reduction so you can confidently plan and execute data center changes.
Like any other tool, the value realized from your DCIM product is directly related to the discipline with which it is used by the entire data center staff. Most critical is the initial population and ongoing maintenance of the DCIM database. Some DCIM vendors provide tools that will automate much of the initial discovery and data capture of your assets/infrastructure — physical and virtual systems, cabling and power chain. These tools can import data from your existing spreadsheets and other sources, first validating, matching and synchronizing with the discovered data.
With support from the vendor’s experienced data center professionals, you will build a trusted database that becomes the single repository for all domains and levels — systems, network, facilities, managers, system administrators and technicians. This becomes the single pane of glass through which the entire data center staff will look to track and visualize assets, their relationships and performance.
Once the initial DCIM asset database is built, the entire staff must follow best practices for change management to maintain a complete and accurate repository, otherwise the DCIM’s value will begin to deteriorate and the system will fall into disuse. Most DCIM vendors provide computer-based tools to facilitate and enforce these processes to expedite workflow and maintain database accuracy. A structured change and work management process can coordinate and track the efforts of the data center staff as they install, configure and provision new services. This provides the tactical “glue” to unite the various data center domains.
The rewards for implementing a DCIM solution and establishing processes for its use can be immense. Again, consider the predictions and claims below and determine which present the most immediate opportunities (low hanging fruit) for you:
The claims above highlight some of the possible opportunities for cost savings, resource optimization and facility life extension that your DCIM solution can deliver.
Raritan is a longtime industry leader in providing advanced technology products for data center management. Raritan’s brands include Paragon® and Dominion® — secure out-of-band access and control of servers; the PX™ family of intelligent PDUs; Power IQ® data center power and energy management software; and now dcTrack™ — an advanced, full-functioned DCIM for data center change and capacity management with workflow best practices. Raritan’s products have always distinguished themselves as easy-to-use and best-in-class performers. As your organization begins to explore DCIM tools, we invite you to consider Raritan’s dcTrack as your solution.
Based in Somerset, NJ, Raritan has 38 offices worldwide, serving 76 countries.
For more information, please visit Raritan.com