Data centre infrastructure management tools eliminate inefficiencies

There is a disease in the data centre: skyrocketing energy costs, inefficient infrastructure management tools and the unknown effects of looming regulatory action in the United States.

Luckily there is an anecdote: a new group of solutions for data centre infrastructure management (DCIM). DCIM solutions graphically display a complete inventory of the data centre’s physical and logical assets, showing rack and data centre floor location and rack heat load. Using the software, a data centre manager can model any move, add or change by creating sophisticated “what if” scenarios before implementing changes that can dramatically impact data centre performance.

They can look to the past and the future, using historical data to report and track trends and forecast or predict future requirements for power, cooling and space, making it possible to drive down energy costs and make the data centre run more efficiently.

Gartner reports that DCIM has already been proven to reduce operating expenses by as much as 20 per cent. Other research has shown that DCIM solutions can reduce the time to deploy new servers by up to 50 per cent, extend the life of a data centre by up to five years and help attain a power usage effectiveness of 2.0 or less. In today’s resource and dollar-constrained world, this is a critical opportunity that organizations need to recognize and act upon.

Soaring energy costs

Data centres have always used massive amounts of energy, but the rising cost of energy, combined with the expanding data centre infrastructure, is forcing managers to think about how to run data centres more efficiently.

Forty per cent of data centre operational costs are attributable to power alone. By 2014, it will be more expensive to power a data centre than to buy and manage the hardware in it. In North America, operational costs have risen 100 per cent since 2005. It’s clear that rising costs will only get worse in the near future, and data centre managers will have to find ways to mitigate and drive down expenses.

That’s hard when you don’t have all the information you need to make decisions. For example, data centres are so complex it is easy to lose sight of assets, say nothing about knowing what they are doing. And how do you track how much power, cooling and space is needed, or how long resources will survive or if you have enough capacity for growth? These uncertainties and inefficiencies are certainly keeping data centre managers up at night. A Cassatt 2009 Data Centre Survey reports:

* More than 75 per cent of data centre managers only have a general idea of the current dynamic usage profile of their servers.
* About seven per cent say they don’t have a very good handle on what their servers are doing.
* At least 20 per cent know what their servers were originally provisioned to do, but aren’t certain that those machines are actually still involved in those tasks.
* And 20 per cent of survey respondents think that 10 per cent to 30 per cent of their servers are “orphans” (they are on, but doing nothing).

One way to “solve” these problems is by over-provisioning, which means buying 50 per cent more equipment than you need. But when pressure mounts to bring costs down, you don’t have the visibility needed to address the problem.

Related problems that burden data centres include:

* Inefficient business processes (lack of agility). IT must constantly meet changing business needs, and IT departments are under tremendous pressure to deliver. Data centre consolidation is a key initiative that falls in this area as a way to meet business objectives.
* Inefficient use of space. According to the 2009 Cassatt report, within three years, more than 50 per cent of existing data centres will be out of space or will have inadequate power and cooling equipment.
* Expensive real estate. It costs about $2,000 to $3,000 per square foot to build a data centre, which could add up to $150 to $200 million in capital expenses. There is a big push to optimize the data centres an organization already has, rather than building new ones.
* The division between facilities and IT. In most data centres, facilities and IT are managed separately despite the fact that there is a tremendous need to integrate the software tools and management processes to understand energy use across the whole data centre.

Adding to all the other pressures is impending government legislation regarding data centre carbon emissions. It remains unclear when and if legislation will get real teeth or if taxation penalties will start to change people’s buying behavior. However, it is clear that companies are on notice that energy management will be a key performance indicator and they will need to have the tools in place to achieve a greener data centre.

The DCIM solution

Infrastructure and operations leaders must now go beyond performance management of IT equipment and begin to manage the entire data centre infrastructure. DCIM solutions enable intelligent capacity planning resulting in the most efficient use of power, cooling and space through the optimal placement of data centre assets, supporting more efficient, cost-effective and greener environments.

So what should you look for? A complete DCIM suite can help you:

* Discover: Data centre managers can’t manage what they can’t find. A DCIM solution should provide the ability to automatically search for IT assets, collecting important data to speed implementation and keep your records up to date.
* Visualize: Once assets are accounted for, DCIM solutions map the logical data collected during the discovery process and create a virtual model of your entire data centre estate.
* Model: To effectively manage assets, DCIM will provide the ability to manipulate a virtual model of the data centre, creating sophisticated “what if” scenarios to understand how any move, add and change initiatives will affect your data centre power, cooling and space before the changes are actually made.
* Control: After virtual changes have been modeled, DCIM provides the ability to define and control the execution of service request processes, using graphical workflow and automated execution resulting in improved service delivery, reduced server deployment time and Enforces ITIL and COBIT best practices.
*Report: DCIM supports the real-time collection of data specific to power and environmental metrics and should provide business intelligence tools to deliver this information to management for review.
* Predict: When it comes to data centre capacity, predicting the future can be the difference between “open for business” or “out of business”. DCIM uses the historical data to track trends and forecast future requirements for space, cooling and power.

Because companies need to rein in energy costs for environmental initiatives and/or economics, and managers need to drive efficiency in data centres, deploying DCIM solutions in the data centre is inevitable.

Forward-thinking data centres are using DCIM solutions today. These smart data centre managers realize that they have to stop guessing and start planning. The days of over provisioning or using Visio and Excel for data centre management are — by necessity — over. The age of DCIM is here.

Network World (US)

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