Using DCIM To Achieve Simplicity in Face of Complexity

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Lara Greden is a senior principal, strategy, at CA Technologies. Her previous post was titled, Preparing for DCIM in 2014: Best Practices for Getting It Right. You can follow her on Twitter at @laragreden.

LaraGreden-tnLARA GREDEN
CA Technologies

Data centers are complex, dynamic environments that take a team of specialists to operate. But no one relishes complexity nor should team members adopt a specialist mindset. What’s needed is a team that understands the data center as an ecosystem and how changes to one part of the system will impact other parts. Too often, data center and IT executives think they have this covered because of the skills, talent and occasional heroic efforts of individual specialists on their teams. But heroics are no longer sufficient in today’s world of rising demand for IT and data center services, increased power density, and growing dependency on owned, leased and cloud data center environments that support business services.

To achieve simplicity in the face of complexity, your data center and IT staff should seek to better understand system impacts in the data center across all roles and functions. This will enable your team to enhance uptime and availability, reduce costs, and improve execution to deliver top line results. DCIM can help your team achieve these goals by broadening their understanding of the data center outside of their immediate specialty. That’s especially important today where the need to manage data center infrastructure with real-time intelligence based on accurate data has never been greater.

Streamlining and Scaling Operations

In many organizations, staff members in a variety of functions periodically walk the data center floor to check the status of PDUs, CRACs/CRAHs, and other power and cooling equipment. While the power and cooling status of the data center is critical to ensuring uptime and availability for the end user, so are the other systems that are left unattended during the walk-throughs. This can be problematic when another data center location, or some other set of responsibilities, is added to the scope. This is where you can use DCIM software to connect remotely to power, cooling, and IT equipment throughout your data center – covering racks, the raised floor environment, the chiller room, batteries, generators and more. Users can access the status of equipment, regardless of original manufacturer or vendor, from a web browser or a mobile device.

Staff members can receive intelligent alerts to help them reduce the occurrence of false alarms, and know when an asset is behaving abnormally. The end result is that you’ll be better prepared to cover more data centers and solve the next set of challenges. And if you have a screen in the NOC dedicated to power and cooling status, you’ll be able to provide transparency into critical metrics and indicators for people from different roles and functions.

Simplifying Racking and Stacking

There’s more to just finding space when it comes to placing new servers on the data center floor. Today, it’s no longer sufficient to rely on somebody walking the floor to identify open space or to relay on outdated information contained in spreadsheets. Some IT organizations pay hefty consulting fees for periodic audits of their data center space and asset inventory. But why not ingrain the data on space, power and cooling for the racks into the process of provisioning servers, such as the workflows that depend on that data for good outcomes. Given the dynamic nature of today’s data center, it is essential to take power and cooling into account to make a reliable placement decision.

Data quality and consistency are essential to implementing DCIM technology. Taking the time to correctly identify and govern the information that manages your data center infrastructure will help make your DCIM implementation a success. By applying intelligence and analytics to the process of placing new servers on the data center floor, DCIM will help your team find optimal locations for new devices, provide instructions and visualizations to efficiently install them, and help ensure that the installations occurred as expected via auto-discovery “checking” mechanisms.

Easing Capacity Planning

In many IT organizations, capacity planning is a distinct function staffed by people with exceptional analytic and mathematical skills, and deep knowledge of data center domains. The capacity planning group addresses questions such as the potential impact of a proposed merger on data center capacity, or how a company’s growth will affect its need for power and cooling capacity in the data center. They rely on good input data for understanding historical capacity and consumption, and modeling new scenarios based on libraries of technology alternatives. Capacity planners believe in the old adage that “the forecast is always wrong” and use scenarios and uncertainty modeling techniques to reveal key insights.

Today, they often depend on counterparts in facilities, mechanical and electrical engineering to cover the domains of power and cooling, as well as concerns related to building or adding more data center capacity. But capacity planners recognize that the power, space, and cooling domains are intricately linked with questions of compute, storage, and network capacity. DCIM software helps capacity planners look at the complete data center picture, beyond projections based on simple historical averages.

Some DCIM software applications can even provide sophisticated analytics to help carry out capacity planning activities with embedded intelligence. Implementing DCIM technology should be seen as part of an organizational goal for staff to go beyond their specialties and truly understand how the data center can be optimized to deliver better business results. As you architect your DCIM implementation, you will quickly see many instances of how DCIM software is fundamental to simplifying and regaining control of the complexity in your data center operations. And you’ll be well on your way to achieving the benefits of DCIM.

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One Comment

  1. Well said. If you can't measure it you can't fix it. We have had the repeated pleasure of letting a DC manager know that their CRAC fan motor belt was slipping by observing the amperage load vary over time, allowing truly "Preventive maintenance" before it became a crisis.