3 Keys to Real-Time Data Center Infrastructure Management

Good DCIM lends accountability, consistency, and reliability to all IT-supported business processes and functions.

By Dipti Parmar

By Dipti Parmar June 03, 2020

The data center is one of the core assets of any organization, even if it’s a billion-dollar enterprise, all the more so because information is the currency of business today. Even as modern data centers are spread across physical locations and the cloud, smart CIOs need to view the compute and storage infrastructure, colocation facilities, as well as the edge as a single entity or capital asset, with its own budgeting requirements and target ROI.

This means assimilating the years of expertise that IT teams have accumulated in managing their infrastructure turning it into a well-organized set of business processes that lends accountability, consistency of performance, and reliability to all IT-supported functions and operations.

Enter Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM), which can be defined as a resource and capacity planning solution for data centers from the business perspective. An intelligently deployed DCIM extends its benefits far beyond IT into all business systems. It takes into account the complexity, costs, value and ROI of core business assets and facilities over their lifecycles.

Image source: Nlyte Software

So how can organizations build a modern, software-controlled data center designed to collect and analyze humongous amounts of data, constantly consolidate and improve workflows, and make optimum use of IT equipment and resources? How can they use real-time data to facilitate smarter and quicker decisions, reduce operational risks and provide instant services and solutions to their customers? Here are the facets of DCIM that will assist them in these goals.

Asset Management with Automatic Discovery

Documentation is critical to inventory and asset management, especially if your data center is an unwieldy collection of small and large equipment, including racks, cables, sensors, outlets, and devices. Updated, real-time documentation is made simpler by automatic discovery and management of assets.

Modern data centers have a dynamic environment with VMs being a common feature. Centralized DCIM software enables auto-discovery of multiple hosts, VMs, as well as applications, and lists them down as assets. It also syncs with the virtualization platform at periodic intervals to keep this list up to date. In case of errors or inconsistencies, logs and email/IM alerts can be generated, enable managers to track and respond to issues in real time.

Regular audits can be automated and scheduled, or run on-demand. The DCIM UI also simplifies addition of storage, compute, or network assets and enables easy configuration of IP addresses, user access, protocols, and host attributes.

It’s possible to map out an entire data center, and monitor and operate devices using a simple Android or iOS app.

Long-Term Sustainability with Energy Management

Data centers everywhere are either approaching capacity limits or overcompensating for energy requirements. As a result, power resources are constrained and energy costs are moving up by the day. It’s important to keep an eye on power usage and efficiency barometers; this is a core feature of any DCIM worth its salt.

Overheating of servers and consequent overcooling uses more resources, reduces performance, increases risks, and decreases the hardware lifespan. Modern DCIM solutions save costs throughout the operational duration of equipment using intelligent PDUs with sensors for temperature, humidity, airflow, pressure, water, smoke, and motion. The human element to monitoring is added by connecting to CCTV or web cams.

DCIM software also has the ability to monitor the energy usage of individual servers and intelligent racks. Dashboards can show power utilization trends per device or system and alert managers when thresholds are crossed. An AI-based DCIM might have the capability to forecast usage and even balance power loads based on current consumption. This ensures budgets are not used up by inefficiencies or stresses in one or more workloads.

Configurable tools that help calculate savings everyday allow IT managers to stay on budget by tweaking different hardware and software resources in real time.

Change Management with Hyperconvergence and Hybrid Cloud

Data center operations are more complex than ever. Workflows and applications being added, stopped, modified, or repurposed at any given moment according to evolving business demands. It’s important for IT managers to identify and manage the workflows with the potential to cause change in the data center’s physical and virtual assets, and then control infrastructure changes accordingly, while maintaining efficiencies.

The key to high performing data center that helps the organization outclass competition with less resources is technology. Organizations need to make data center upgradation and standardization needs to be an ongoing process, for which they need the ability to deploy and switch between on-premise systems and public, private and hybrid clouds that best meet the demands of their workloads.

A full-fledged DCIM solution features intelligent tools for workflow automation that integrate with the enterprise cloud’s single pane of glass interface. Managers can use the centralized interface to generate change requests, automate device moves, respond to security issues, and maintain audit trails of requests and compliance tasks.

The Nutanix Cloud Usage Report 2019 found that adoption of hybrid and multicloud architectures is growing, and enterprises in pretty much every vertical have attained significant maturity levels in cloud usage, with most of them consuming more than 30 different cloud services. At the same time, an IDC study reported that on-premise IT spending has grown faster than cloud of late.

While cloud usage is reaching new heights, on-premise data centers are still growing. This is because some workloads – such as big data use cases that process too much data for cloud computing to be viable, or those in highly-regulated industries like healthcare and finance – will remain in on-premise data centers for the time being.

The solution is a hyperconverged, multicloud data center with next-generation virtualization, which speeds up innovation and facilitates agile business practices. These feature a hypervisor built in to the HCI stack, fully integrated with the DCIM, with add-on tools for infrastructure management, automation, orchestration, application development, deployment, testing, networking, and security. Pre-integrated virtualization stacks reduce the number of moving and incompatible parts, resulting in extreme savings in costs and man hours.

Image source: Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Datasheet

IT Agility Leads to Business Continuity

Good data center infrastructure management is a catalyst for innovation and tighter integration of business functions. The everyday, real-time operational benefits are seemingly endless – more workplace mobility and better collaboration facilities for staff, higher availability and scalability of workloads, faster recovery from security incidents, and lower TCO due to optimal use of software, hardware, and virtual resources.

“In many cases, I&O leaders can simplify their infrastructure without significant additional capex or opex investment,” claims Phil Dawson, VP of Research at Gartner. “This creates a stronger platform to move forward and invest wisely to position IT at the heart of business growth.”

The DCIM interface the organization uses often becomes the central, trusted source and conduit of mission-critical information within the organization. It enables CIOs and CTOs to track usage patterns for a variety of applications and change business processes accordingly. The data collected can be used as baselines for forecasting in the business’s revenue models. All said and done, data center infrastructure management lies at the core of data-driven digital transformation in the enterprise.

Dipti Parmar is a contributing writer. She writes for major tech and business publications such as CIO.com, CMO.com, Entrepreneur and Inc. magazines. Follow her on Twitter @dipTparmar.

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