Turning DCIM’s Big Data into Actionable Insight

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Gary Bunyan is Global DCIM Solutions Specialist at iTRACS Corporation, a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) company. This is the ninth in a series of columns by Gary about “the user experience”. See Gary’s most recent columns: Unlock Your Capacity By Unplugging Your Ghost Servers and Boost Rack Densities Without Racking Your Brain.

Gary-Bunyan-iTRACSGARY BUNYAN
iTRACS

Recently, I met with a new customer in Europe – an industry-leading online company with more than two dozen data centers serving hundreds of thousands of consumers worldwide. This company is using Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) to manage moves, adds, and changes in multiple facilities, extend the life of its existing physical infrastructure, and maintain the highest levels of availability for a very demanding customer base. As you can imagine, a lot of our conversation  focused on how to optimize capacity utilization and business continuity.

But the real topic of discussion?  The Data!

By this, I mean the massive amounts of data “locked” inside the customer’s data centers, buried across their infrastructure. What can be referred to as “DCIM’s Big Data.”

DCIM’s Big Data is way bigger than just individual data points about power usage or asset leases. It’s about power, space, cooling, CPU utilization, business output, work-per-watt-per-business unit, facilities loads, network connectivity and much more ­– all of the interrelationships and inter-dependencies between assets, systems and applications that ultimately drive the overall performance of the data center.

DCIM’s Big Data is data about any asset, application, process, or workflow that impacts the performance of the physical ecosystem and its ability to serve the ever-changing needs of the business.

Conventional thinking says DCIM is only about either power or asset management, isolated from each other. However, that is a dangerously limited view of the problems DCIM needs to solve. Instead, DCIM acts an open information highway that lets you access, aggregate, and interconnect any data coming from anywhere and then turn it into relevant insight. This is DCIM’s true role as a game-changer.

From this perspective, DCIM’s job is to make the data:

  • Understandable – collected and made visible in a way that makes it meaningful
  • Relevant – enriched with the context of space, connectivity, and Time to provide a holistic understanding of the entire interconnected physical ecosystem
  • Interconnected – presented in relationship rather than in silos, creating rich new layers of meaning
  • Actionable – presented within a single holistic management framework so it can be instantly acted upon to drive transformational change

DCIM is the only viable way of “unlocking” the data sitting in the physical infrastructure. Which is why my European client was so interested in the bi-directional information exchange made possible by a data-sharing technology called the DCIM Open Exchange Framework.

Bi-directional Exchange of Information

The DCIM Open Exchange Framework is a core DCIM technology that connects all external data sources, systems, and workflows to the DCIM environment, allowing for the free bi-directional exchange of information. Using the framework, DCIM can send or receive any data point from any vendor or system using open, industry-standard interfaces and protocols.

The framework creates access to unlock and leverage DCIM’s Big Data:

  • Streams of data from virtually any source are aggregated, analyzed, and presented as actionable information within a single point of management
  • The customer’s business systems and workflows are enriched by pulling information from DCIM back into their enterprise environments, such as ticketing, supply chain, etc.
  • Processes and workflows are enhanced both within and beyond the DCIM ecosystem – a true bi-lateral exchange of business value.
Maintenance

Maintenance schedules and ticketing activities can be shared with outside systems. Click for full size graphic.

Power, Maintenance and Financial Data

Here’s examples of available insights:

Let’s say you want to manage all of your enclosures, PDUs, and other assets across all of your data center sites. Using the framework approach to share data, you can stream various data sources into the DCIM system, combine them in one view, and manage them from a single screen. Here’s an example of three different types of data combined into a single interconnected view:

  • Power Log – you can stream data that shows you real-time power draws of each asset within the context of the entire power chain. Where are biggest power draws and why? Where is “stranded power” being wasted? What are the impacts upstream and downstream and where are the best energy efficiency opportunities?
  • Maintenance Log – you can track maintenance on each PDU so you know what is scheduled when, why, and potential impacts on other PDUs. You can then feed this data into outside ticketing systems like BMC Remedy so everyone knows what is going on and all maintenance activities are managed with precision.
  • Financial Log – you can manage each enclosure within the context of the business units and/or colo customers being supported. You can track power costs, space consumption, contract terms, and other financial-related information to make sure the assets are being managed for bottom-line impact to the business. This is a great tool for cols and service providers.
Financials

Financial information can be segmented by user, business unit, or any other category.
Images courtesy of iTRACS. Click for full graphic.

How the Data is Combined

DCIM’s greatest value lies in the relevant combinations of the information presented.

For example, let’s say you’re doing scheduled maintenance on a PDU and suddenly a power outage occurs impacting your other (backup) PDUs. A pool of revenue-generating servers is now under threat to go down, directly impacting your company’s revenue stream. Because you have access to interconnected information about (1) power, (2) asset, (3) redundancy, and (4) maintenance, you can swiftly take coordinated action to avoid calamity. This would be impossible if your data was disconnected, in silos, neither readily available nor offered in a meaningful context.

The bottom line? Infrastructure management is all about interconnected information. Either you have it or you need it. If you don’t unlock DCIM’s Big Data, it may end up locking you into very narrow management windows with very limited control over assets.

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