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

How Next-Generation IIMs Help Overcome The Challenges of Mixed-Topology Environments

The rapid transition to cloud computing and virtualization has led many data centers to begin replacing existing three-tier networks with “new” flat topologies – ironically, these are the same “outdated” topologies they abandoned years ago, writes Tal Harel of RiT Technologies.

Industry Perspectives

January 28, 2014

4 Min Read
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Tal Harel, Director of Marketing, RiT Technologies Ltd. Tal has over 10 years of international marketing experience helping high tech companies, including RDT Group and Jacada Ltd, to improve pipelines, shorten sales cycles and increase earnings.



RiT Technologies

In the previous article, we discussed the advantages of IIM (Intelligent Infrastructure Management) for data center planning and operations. In this article, we discuss the benefits of next-generation IIM for mixed flat/hierarchical topology environments.

Introduction: the Advent of Mixed-topology Data Centers

The rapid transition to cloud computing and virtualization has led many data centers to begin replacing existing three-tier networks with “new” flat topologies – ironically, these are the same “outdated” topologies they abandoned years ago.

The transition reflects changing priorities in today’s increasingly digitized and connected world, in which dependable network traffic delivery, always-available Internet connectivity and seamless support of connected devices take precedence over most other IT considerations.

However, many data centers - especially those that invested millions of dollars and years of work in building their existing networks - are taking a “SWAT-team” rather than a comprehensive approach to the transition. To avoid risk, they are choosing to install limited flat-topology “greenfield pods” within their existing vertical networks, switching to the flat architecture only for their most performance-critical applications, while leaving many time-tested elements intact.

The Challenge: Providing Support for Mixed- topology Architecture

While this hybrid-approach makes sense from a service evolution perspective, it can play havoc with the manageability of the physical infrastructure.

The reason for this is that the IIM (Intelligent Infrastructure Management) systems deployed at most data centers cannot be used for both new and old networks - either because they are vendor-specific, and so cannot be used with new equipment, or because they are not “smart” enough to handle both inter-connect and cross-connect topologies.

So typically, as soon as the homogeneity of the equipment within the data center is lost, the effectiveness of existing IIM systems is compromised, and the IT staff must return to antiquated manual methods of documenting connectivity and tracking errors.

This moves the data center backwards: managers have less visibility and control regarding the physical plant, with reduced ability to conduct effective maintenance, planning, maintenance, provisioning and troubleshooting activities.

The Solution: IIM Systems for Mixed-Topologies

In contrast, the industry’s latest-generation IIMs are built to support heterogeneous data center environments. They can provide full monitoring for all types of networks – whether inter-connect, cross-connect or mixed; fiber or cable; with hierarchical or flat topology; and independent of carrier or data transfer rates.

PatchView+™ by RiT Technologies, for example, accomplishes this by uniquely identifying every piece of network equipment, regardless of its vendor or the process by which it is connected to other equipment. It does this by gaining access to the component’s unique internal connectivity identifier – an element located deep within the RJ45 connector for copper components and the LC connector in fiber equipment.

Since no extra identification components or layers are needed, the entire network in all its complexity is fully visible to PatchView+. This enables the system to automatically build a comprehensive database of the entire physical infrastructure and to keep it accurate in real-time, regardless of configuration changes.

Once an IIM has access to a comprehensive, trustworthy database of the physical plant, a broad range of labor-saving and availability-enhancing applications can be rolled out, including:

  • “Dashboard” and tablet visibility of status and configuration of all physical infrastructure elements;

  • Proactive notifications and alarms of problems/pre-defined conditions, with detailed analysis and remediation suggestions;

  • Automated work order generation (including multi-team work orders) and LED-guided fault-proof execution;

  • Push-button tracking of assets and their dependencies in the data center;

  • Support for planning, including simulation and analysis of the effect of potential changes; and

  • Automated provisioning of new equipment and services.

The Result: Reduced Data Center Costs

According to Gartner, the use of IIMs can reduce operational costs by as much as 20-30% while decreasing downtime, accelerating service deployment, enhancing security and increasing overall control.

This is why next-generation IIM platforms are advocated by industry leaders as a new best-practice for all data centers, and especially for hard-to-manage mixed environments, because of the savings they generate and their ability to simplify inherently complex and hard-to-manage environments.

In fact, sometimes a single function such as device tracking to enable re-discovery of lost or “orphaned” equipment, can save the organization more than the cost of the whole IIM investment.

For example, a RiT customer with a mixed-topology environment that used PatchView+ to conduct an automated device-tracking study after the system was deployed, discovered that 40% of its available ports - and therefore the expensive array of switches associated with those ports – were not being used.

As with all IIM installations, once the IT staff are accustomed to using the system’s many error-reducing and planning-enhancement features, it becomes difficult to return to labor-intensive manual systems based on Excel sheets.

In conclusion, the advantages of next-generation IIM systems are especially beneficial to data centers considering an evolution to a mixed environment, in which infrastructure control and management become greater considerations than before.

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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