Software is redefining the data center. It has also become an opportunity for big vendors that sell lots of different physical infrastructure components into the data center space to unify their product portfolios.
Eaton is the latest such vendor to make the attempt to use data center power management software to turn a variety of power management products into a unified solution. Schneider did something similar with its StruxureWare data center infrastructure management software, and so did Emerson Network Power with the Trellis DCIM.
Eaton has a rich and diverse heritage. The conglomerate, historically a Cleveland-area company that moved its global headquarters to Dublin, Ireland, in 2012, has solutions across a variety of industries, but sees data centers as an extremely important segment. Within this segment, it has a wide range of electrical equipment, as well as racks, cable trays, meters, and airflow management solutions. It also provides professional services for data centers.
“A lot of people have an impression of us, but not of all we do,” said Philip Fischer, Eaton's global data center segment manager. “The sum of the parts is equal to more than one plus one. We have the ability to provide solutions from the substation to the outlet level. We’re bringing together all of it through software.”
Integrating Power and IT Management
Convergence of facilities and IT has the company changing its market approach. “We want to bring better understanding between facility and IT support layer,” said Jeff Kennedy, business value marketing manager at Eaton. “Many times [facilities and IT] are the same person. IT is seen as an enabler to solve business problems; 'How can I deliver in the most cost efficient way possible?'”
"The data center needs to be delivered in a fashion that meets the IT timeline," said Fischer. "It's a 'just-in-time' mentality." In order to facilitate the approach, customers need to understand complex interdependencies. This is where software comes in.
Eaton is focused on what it calls the fifth element: data center power management. The other four elements are compute, storage, network, and software. Eaton believes that power management hasn't been integrated into the whole picture as much as it should be. “If we can make that intelligent and integrate into the stack, it adds value,” said Kennedy.
There are a lot of popular buzzwords around what Eaton is trying to accomplish. It can fall in the realm of converged infrastructure, data center infrastructure management, or software-defined data center. Eschewing the buzzwords, Fischer said, “It’s all about getting the right information to the right person. We really see software as key to solving the challenge of complex interdependencies.”
Bigger Focus on Multi-Tenant Data Centers
The way people deploy technology is changing, with cloud and multi-tenant data centers on the rise. “We’re keeping our eyes on what the new technology means for the physical layer,” said Fischer. “We are seeing different maturities of technologies, spots much denser than facilities were designed for. We’ll deliver the targeted solution that people are trying to achieve."
The company says it still does a lot of work with enterprise facilities but multi-tenant facility work is the fastest rising segment. A lot of data center vendors have noted the trend, including Schneider, which opened a division specifically focused on colocation providers.
Eaton said that the biggest difference between an enterprise data center and a multi-tenant facility is predictability. “A multi-tenant data center is unsure about what kind of equipment will ultimately be deployed,” said Fischer.
“Our entire business development team is dedicated to that sector," said Kennedy.
Fischer is the strategic leader for the electric sector’s activity in the global data center industry. Kennedy's role is the newly created business value marketing manager. Kennedy was brought aboard to help figure out how to tie the product portfolio together through software.
The company is also partnering to make sure everything plays nice in the bigger IT picture. It has partnerships with the likes of Cisco and VMware. With Cisco, now Eaton has the ability to power cap the chassis and notify UCS if there’s a power outage.
Other partnerships include Caterpillar for generators, software manufacturers like CA. “You’re going to see validations,” said Jeff. “We’re Vblock ready, for example. You’ll see a continued push in those validations. It gives peace of mind to customers, tells them you’re product’s already been tested.”