Tim Hazzard serves as president of Methode Electronics – Data Solutions Group, which provides data center infrastructure management (DCIM), active energy, cabinet, cabling and customized data center solutions throughout North America and Europe.
Data center designs represent a complex ecosystem of interdependent technology and processes. Solutions are rarely black or white, and sometimes an outside resource or consultant is needed to help make order of chaos. For data centers, a fully integrated data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution can be the answer.
Key to data center operations is their reliability. A data center’s infrastructure must be available 24/7 to meet the increasing demands of today’s virtual commerce and activity. If any part of this environment fails or has performance issues, the business slows. While higher-level performance monitoring has been available for some time, granular details have been hard to collect and analyze. DCIM tools now allow for an unprecedented ability to collect and perform predictive analysis of potential failures.
In a small data center with few variables, physical monitoring could be manageable for a short time. Staff could track select metrics and keep records in a spreadsheet or database. However, as a data center becomes larger and more complex, this method increases risk and can lead to potentially catastrophic results. A complex data center requires many systems to monitor information with each added asset. As operations and technology scale and become more robust, the data center manager can quickly become overwhelmed and engulfed in analytics and massive waves of data.
Some of the potential dangers are fairly obvious. Relying continuously on staff resource availability may not be prudent. There’s risk of missed critical reporting intervals, transposed numbers, or even overlooked warning signs.
Other threats may be less visible. There are hidden dangers lurking in uncoordinated assets. Temperature alerts might actually be linked to improper power distribution. Discovery of a relocated or missing asset might start with a security breach. Reliance of contractors to support the data center can introduce new security risks. Under an individualistic monitoring approach, an isolated alert might not quickly and easily produce the root of the problem and could take hours to solve, leaving company assets and revenue at serious risk.
Fortunately, new developments in data center monitoring and asset tracking now allow for real-time assessment of assets and metrics through a single, unified system. DCIM solutions offer the ability to seamlessly connect hardware with software systems, and provide managers with a holistic view of the data center’s performance and health.
There are many advantages to implementing a turn-key, integrated DCIM solution. What follows are the most significant benefits of a seamless data and asset management system.
24/7 monitoring with automated intelligent alerts. Modern data centers require around-the-clock surveillance. Demands on data occur at all hours of the day and night as companies serve global customers that expect constant access. Rather than solely depending upon staff to monitor critical functions and assets, an integrated DCIM solution can gather data at specified intervals and disperse it for real insight into the data center’s function. Ongoing, consistent reporting provides data center managers with the assurance that critical tasks are being performed, as specified, without interruption. Intelligent alerts also eliminate errant or unnecessary “false alarms” that are sometimes sent across multiple monitoring systems.
Better allocation of physical assets and staff. An integrated, turnkey DCIM solution can significantly improve operational efficiency across the entire data center, allowing for more productive use of physical assets and staff resources. For the data center manager, DCIM provides a holistic view of key performance indicators. With the right information, the manager can decide how to integrate resources and where improvements can be made.
In addition to properly allocating physical assets, forward-thinking managers also can evaluate staff resources and operational efficiencies. With intelligent monitoring, employees are able to spend less time analyzing data; and, instead, focus on more important tasks, such as maintaining equipment; delivering more predictive analysis to prevent potential failures, and providing additional internal services.
Reduced risk from proactive monitoring. Data center managers know there are many risks associated with operating a complex facility. The more elements and assets present, the greater the potential for environmental, energy and security interruptions. Rather than reacting after a problem has occurred, the right DCIM solution allows for proactive problem solving and prevention.
Across the world, data has become highly regulated, forcing data centers to comply with strict legal requirements for security. DCIM solutions allow for greater security across various features, balancing necessary access of appropriate staff with protection of sensitive information.
Scalability as the data center evolves. What a data center requires in year one likely will differ from its needs in year three. A phased approach can provide for immediate results, while allowing the time needed to research and add more sophisticated functionality.
When looking for a DCIM provider, it is important to identify a solution that integrates with the existing infrastructure and synchs with current assets. The right provider will work alongside your data center team to:
- Identify current challenges and business objectives
- Evaluate tools and processes in place, and assess how they can be integrated with DCIM
- Determine the most valuable solution for today with the ability to scale for future needs
- Ensure long-term value – from system design and installation to ongoing maintenance and consultation
An integrated DCIM solution will not yield a productive data center on its own. Like hiring the right staff, an organization must find the proper fit for its processes and philosophies. To develop a forward-thinking performance management and response strategy, an organization must determine the right DCIM solution – one that’s designed to meet its needs today and scale for the vision of tomorrow.
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