Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Transparency: Customers Demand It – Can Data Centers Provide It?

DCIM tools and software provide colocation customers with much-needed transparency and visibility into data center assets.

Industry Perspectives

August 20, 2015

4 Min Read
Transparency: Customers Demand It – Can Data Centers Provide It?

Byron Miller is the Senior Vice President of Operations at FORTRUST.

Knowledge is power. As a colocation customer, can you imagine having real-time information on the power, cooling, and relative humidity being supplied to your IT assets available 24/7 on your mobile device? Plus, what if there were a way to verify whether or not your SLAs are being fulfilled?

We are in a sea of change in the colocation data center industry. Real-time visibility is in demand, and the era of transparency is upon us.

A data center partnership requires a lot of trust. Clients trust that they will receive the amount of power they need, the network connection and uptime they paid for, a well-maintained facility without risk from disasters, and a building supplied with equipment that will cool and power effectively, while also being monitored and maintained by a trained and attentive staff.

Without a metric or tool to check whether these SLAs are being met, they become promises a customer trusts their data center is fulfilling. A customer will only know otherwise when something goes wrong.

When a customer needs to add more power and learns there is no more power available, this leaves a colocation customer between a rock and a hard place. Or worse, clients pay for power they don’t need, costing their business thousands and taking power away from other data center clients. In other cases, servers might overheat and damage equipment, but without visibility into a monitoring system no one knows until the situation becomes dire and costly.

Unless colocation customers plan to work next to equipment and monitor all of these variables 24 hours a day, they will never know.

However, this is changing. With the advent of Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM), new customer-friendly tools are emerging that give colocation clients complete visibility and transparency. These tools are incredibly convenient and offer efficient management for data center staff.

Colocation customers can see whether their SLAs are being met, as well as access real-time data about their colocated environment. They can also trend data on their colocated environment regarding power usage, temperature, and relative humidity. The alternative to this would be manually taking readings for a single point in time.

Data center managers can ensure clients receive the precise amount of services they need and have paid for, allowing them to better manage and allocate resources.

There is a finite amount of power and cooling in any data center – incorrectly allocating resources can be an egregious error. DCIM systems make assessing when to expand, when to add more capacity, and when to employ cooling to areas of the data center very straightforward. Monitoring tools allow for intricate review of the data center, revealing potential issues before they progress.

With all of the incredible benefits, why don’t all data centers have DCIM tools?

Two reasons: Implementing a DCIM is costly, particularly for a legacy data center; each data center is different and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. For a data center to take on the cost of implementing a DCIM system may simply not be a financial possibility.

Recently at AFCOM, a room full of roughly 100 data center professionals were asked to raise their hands if they had implemented DCIM. One-third of the hands went up.

There are DCIM tools and DCIM software available on the market, but options are limited and it is difficult to find a solution because no two data centers are alike. The amount of data points that need to be monitored vary from one data center to the next. For example, at FORTRUST, we monitor close to 100,000 data points throughout our data center infrastructure.

Some data centers can’t do branch circuit monitoring at the circuit breaker level, so they can’t track on an individual circuit level — making power utilization monitoring difficult. The problem with many DCIM tools is that they are not easily customizable by the end user. This has left DCIM developers scrambling to create a solution and fill the gap in the marketplace.

After researching and testing out multiple Building Management Systems (BMS) and DCIM tools, I found that none worked for our facility. We finally found a system that would allow user-friendly customization for our specific needs without needing translators, black boxes or incurring additional cost from the manufacturer to customize. From that DCIM system we created our own tool, giving colocation customers 24-hour real-time access to an in-depth view of their colocated data center environment via web login.

If your data center doesn’t offer a similar tool or isn’t operating a DCIM system, it is time to ask if this will change in the future. In the interest of transparency and data center management, DCIM and customer login monitoring tools are the wave of the future. Be sure your provider is on board.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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