The growing interest in data center infrastructure management tools is being driven in large part by technological trends such as virtualization and the cloud, coupled with burgeoning data volumes and exponential rises in the demand for high-performance computing, networking and storage resources. While Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) products emerged as an initial response to this challenge — offering tools for automation, orchestration, high utilization and ease of scaling — the approach has not been without its challenges.
To begin with, data center managers seeking to optimize data center performance must grapple with a wide array of issues, including a mix of hardware and software from multiple vendors; the frequent lack of co-ordination between Facilities and IT management; rapidly aging technologies; business needs that change unpredictably; and the tendency for data centers to evolve as a collection of siloes. Additional struggles are inherent within data workloads themselves, which require corresponding responses from the power infrastructure if tasks are to be completed successfully. Worse still, like any innovation, the benefits that DCIM software is designed to deliver, versus what is actually achieved, can vary dramatically.
Despite providing benefits, most data center infrastructure management software solutions fail to resolve one of IT managers’ greatest challenges: the ability to view the data center as an integrated, functioning machine through the use of real-time data and optimized analytics. That’s why, even with DCIM products in place, IT professionals face lingering issues such as how to assess the implications of workloads on overall power requirements, how to accurately assign costs to data center tasks, and how to best maximize gains from virtualization and cloud computing.
The urgent need for a clear, holistic, single view of the whole infrastructure— across operational, physical and virtual/cloud layers of IT applications — has now prompted the evolution of a broader category known as Data Center Service Optimization (DCSO). This innovative approach enables IT managers to carry their management capabilities up the technology stack and beyond the data center walls, facilitating complete intelligence and control of how the facility serves the needs of the business. As a result, IT managers reap additional advantages such as business planning, cost analysis and control, energy resource management, and converged management of physical and virtual environments.
DCSO represents a core tenet of the future “software-defined” data center, which requires holistic and automated management tools. Where DCIM solutions focus on managing physical assets to optimize day-to-day operation, DCSO integrates multiple systems and embraces physical and virtual assets inside the data center and beyond, optimizing the service a data center delivers to the organization.
Simplicity is the hallmark of DCSO solutions, which feature an intuitive user interface and drill-down navigation capability and capacity management tools. Ultimately, they should expose the infrastructure state to upper orchestration layers, enable consistent policy enforcement across silos, and create peace of mind by delivering better monitoring without information overload.
DCSO also embraces the trend for the modern data center to become an integrated whole that extends beyond manufacturers’ current offerings and on to their ecosystem of complementary products. It’s a more intelligent approach that allows customers to make the most of every opportunity and develop their individual data center systems to become the best they can possibly be. Advanced physical infrastructure solutions coupled with a simplified DCSO help optimize overall management of the data center even further. For instance, intelligent power distribution units (PDUs) can provide visibility of the current state of power consumption within the rack, while environmental sensors attached to the front of each rack reveal temperature and humidity levels within the site.
In this manner, the relationship between IT and the supporting infrastructure can be visualized, resulting in a much better understanding of the operational capabilities and limitations of the data center site, including environmental status, power consumption and cooling infrastructure. As adopters gain the understanding of the relationship between IT and supporting infrastructure systems, it enables operators and managers to make better informed decisions on how to optimize and further develop their data centers.
While virtualization and cloud orchestration can make it easier to decouple IT loads from the underlying infrastructure, the DCSO platform must still be able to integrate with power management software capable of automating processes to protect the load in the event of a power or environmental event. This key software-defined power feature isn’t available in all offerings but is essential in order to thwart the overwhelming costs of downtime. When the data center team is performing under the time pressure of a power event, this capability is essential to automate disaster prevention and recovery policies and remove the potential for manual error. Leading solutions are also offering advanced placement mechanisms that can dynamically move the IT load in order to remediate and optimize cooling costs.
DCSO solutions extend throughout the organization and earn the data center fresh recognition as a focal point for organizational intelligence and enhanced competitive advantage. This not only helps with proper management of day-to-day functions, it also enables operators to plan change, anticipate challenges, and make intelligent decisions that ensure business continuity and optimize the IT equipment life span.
Providing the holistic and integrated information that managers need to truly see their data center and help them perform their role more effectively, DCSO solutions can help IT professionals decide on changes and calculate the resulting cost savings and increase in efficiencies. In addition, the trend toward virtualized and cloud architectures in data centers of all sizes adds further complexity with respect to managing power and environmental events that occur all too often.
By coordinating physical infrastructure — including power, environmental conditions and space capacity — with an operational monitoring layer that is placed within the context of a virtual/cloud layer, the DCSO system gives the data center manager the intelligence required to plan and optimize every aspect of operations for availability, agility and energy efficiency.