Top Five Data Center Issues: DCIM To the Rescue

Sev Onyshkevych is Chief Marketing Officer of FieldView Solutions, which produces Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solutions.

Field View

In the past, managing a data center was pretty straightforward.  But due to the inexorable trend of processing more and more data, the management of these facilities grew in complexity. Complicating the situation, operational decisions at the data center now include such factors as power, cooling, rack space and CPU availability. This is in addition to other information gleaned from IT systems, and related to the facility infrastructure components such as UPS devices, PDUs, chillers, HVACs, generators, branch circuits, etc.

In order to gather and make sense of this massive amount of data, and conform it into plausible information suitable for decision making, the industry is turning to Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools.  In fact, DCIM tools are quickly becoming the solution of choice to control skyrocketing energy costs for data centers worldwide.  In the report “DCIM: Going Beyond IT”, Gartner analyst David J. Cappuccio states that data center managers cannot control costs unless they have a real-time data center software offering to render an accurate view of facilities and IT components.

DCIM tools go beyond the outdated method of storing information in separate, vendor-proprietary, software silos that offer limited reporting capabilities.  While overseeing all the necessary parts of the data center’s operations may be complex, DCIM is designed to make device and system monitoring easier, flexible and more customizable across a wide range of user requirements.

So how can DCIM tools simplify my operations?

To help address this question, here’s a list of the top five data center issues that DCIM tools address and how they might help almost anyone responsible for the operational integrity of the facility to simplify their jobs.

#5 Energy Efficiency

Data centers are increasingly under attack for their energy consumption and costly operations.  According to a 2011 New York Times-sponsored study by Jonathan G. Koomey, a consulting professor in the civil and environmental engineering department at Stanford University, titled “Growth in Data Center Power Use 2005 to 2010,” United States’ data center power consumption increased by 36 percent over that period. Electricity used in global data centers in 2010 likely accounted for between 1.1 percent and 1.5 percent of total electricity use, respectively. For the United States, that number was between 1.7 and 2.2 percent.

Cutting energy usage will help organizations save significant money, while changing the public perception of data centers being “energy hogs” with a “greener” impression.  To reduce energy consumption, it must first be accurately measured.  The measurement  must start with a baseline view of what energy every part of the data center is actually consuming.  And to be accurate, this view must include all areas such as IT equipment, power distribution infrastructure, and ventilation/cooling infrastructure. This is an often time-consuming and manual data extraction process to which nobody looks forward.

This is where the value of DCIM tools comes into play. DCIM solutions automatically extract current energy usage and accurately display overall trending information.  In many cases after deploying DCIM for monitoring, data center operators – for the first time – receive a holistic view of their entire energy consumption, coupled with a trending pattern to help spotlight areas of concern.

Since many data centers are designed with substantial redundancy to optimize uptime, availability and to handle potential peak loads that have yet to be experienced, there is substantial inefficiency built into the infrastructure.  After implementing DCIM, many data centers are able to reduce their power consumption by 15-25 percent, or more.

#4 Monitoring

No doubt, day-to-day system failures have underscored the need for proactive response to potential data center uptime threats.To help facility managers and IT personnel control these issues, more and more operators are turning to DCIM’s real-time, alarming/alert engine—that offers visibility across all aspects of the data center.

For example, DCIM’s monitoring capabilities provide a high-level view of data center operations while also enabling a drill-down process to focus in on minute details such as temperature fluctuations in hot and cold aisles. In addition, DCIM tools can also monitor generators and their power output.  Just these two areas can provide a very useful, at-a-glance indicator.

Proper monitoring also helps enable an effective call-to-action. In the event of a pending issue, alarms can be sent via e-mail, phone or pager, allowing proactive steps to be taken to correct problems before they become critical. In addition, continuous logging of all alarms and alerts empowers data center operators with a chronological, forensic, review of events to strengthen the infrastructure and improve disaster recovery plans.

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  1. Energy waste in data centers is also a hot button for me. Using metrics software on 600 servers running at an animation studio, we found that 56% of their power usage was spent powering idle servers. There were some challenges along the way, especially when it came to interfacing with some older IBM chassis infrastructure, but we were able to work through it. Here is a link to the case study if you are interested

  2. A data centre or a comms cupboard they all draw power, if you do not have a DCIM tool in place to measure in real time what is going on with power consumption you can not start to manage the power that is being wasted, saving power is saving dollars. As the saying goes "money is power" in the case of data processing "power is money".

  3. Michael Lundsgaard

    If disaster strikes DCIM helps you with the complete asset inventory including information regarding system owner, customer info, system name, serial numbers etc. All this information contributes to your disaster recovery plan or buisness continuity plan. Integrated Workflows and work orders together with integrated surveliance helps the floor managers in their work keeping the datacenter structured and professionel