A Data-centric Approach to Managing Data Centers
Data Center operators are facing increasing challenges as the sector matures and new deployment methodologies are being adopted. The result is a range of business issues which need to be addressed by data center owners and operators with tools that address the following areas:
- Complex hybrid digital environments
- Edge adoption and remote ‘dark’ sites
- Increasing number of data sources
- Requirements for true integration
- Operational efficiency and cost reduction (Genuine ROI)
- Uptime, availability and time to service
- A need for improved capacity / resource planning and management
- Ambitions for automation, analytics, ML and ultimately AI
These challenges are resulting to changes in approach to data center management. This is especially true for the operational tools needed to properly manage their day to day activities in distributed data centers. A key change is the requirement for a tool that provides a single source of truth. This is not simply a single pane of glass or dashboard summary. It should include full integration with business systems and processes with the sharing of data across multiple separate systems. All assets in the business being accurately tracked, reported upon and viewed in the same consistent way by all departments sharing a single federated database.
Data is routinely collected and stored in complex multi-layered and disparate systems so gaining true value from this wealth of information requires tools to be deployed which offer greater integration and analytical techniques to take advantage of this critical data. An example might be importing current and predicted weather data, determining how it might affect cooling systems and recommending set point changes to reduce cooling energy consumption and therefore operational cost.
There is increasing recognition of the value of data (the ‘new gold’), but in the data center we are still failing to achieve the benefits of the data lake we are creating, insisting instead on operating separate islands of information. To enable access to this wealth of valuable information full stack integration is available and offers the key to both cost and operational efficiencies for direct and tangible ROIs.
Real-time information from live systems including within the IT stack is also available which allows real-time decision making and control where appropriate. This can lead to a reduction in manual error prone processes, a reduction in operational resources and access to more accurate data. Automated provisioning is already possible with existing levels of real-time data from facility infrastructure, IT devices and even applications.
It is widely recognised that data centers need to connect facilities systems, network systems, IT systems etc. in order to orchestrate rapid changes, yet this is still far from common practice. No longer can the M in DCIM merely represent ‘monitoring’, it must offer genuine management and operational orchestration. It is widely recognised and accepted that the IT stack should be integrated into any management system as well as business systems such as CMDB, ERP and finance systems etc. It is also recognised that Facilities, IT and ‘the business’ do not currently work well together. Lack of integration of information and tools across those disciplines remains a barrier to both cost and resource efficiency.
Aligning IT, Facilities, and other business stakeholders can also produce a competitive advantage and allow the transparency necessary to be able to properly manage hybrid architectures and solutions. Increasingly these will include both public and private cloud deployments, legacy infrastructure and systems, as well as remote unmanned Edge installations. One of the key challenges in the implementation of data center management tools has been integration. This is true of the tools themselves and also the operational process and procedures that allow effective day to day management. This integration is critical to success and historically has either been impossible or too technically or financially challenging to the point that it has been actively discouraged. In addition, the increasing move towards distributed, digital infrastructures and hybrid environments has been one of the most significant shifts, which necessitates the overview and orchestration of infrastructure environments across multiples sites.
In a world where IT systems are becoming more distributed, and IoT is making its mark, data center operators should be taking advantage of the data they are collecting by taking a data-centric approach to managing their sites. Siloed thinking and operational management no longer have a place in the modern data center: Facilities and IT managers need to work together, alongside a multitude of vendors who also need to align and integrate their offerings, sharing data to better accommodate their clients’ needs.
Historically this level of integration has been technically impossible or too financially challenging, nevertheless the increasing shift towards distributed, digital infrastructures and hybrid environments necessitates an unambiguous overview and simplified orchestration of complex infrastructures across multiples sites. Instead of worrying about whether an integration is possible, it’s reasonable nowadays to assume that it is. Therefore, it is possible to design the overall system in a more efficient way and make use of automation where appropriate.
An integrated approach should not aim to be all things to all men though, but rather look to seamlessly hook into existing systems, taking advantage of their unique capabilities and data. This data-centric approach paves the way for true automation, machine learning and ultimately AI. The single source of truth capable of being generated by this data-centric approach should be based on an open framework and integration ready tools to allow rapid deployment and reduce speed to use.
Tools with the attributes described in this article are a catalyst in getting all the stakeholders to work together around core business processes involving people, facilities and IT infrastructure. RiT Tech has wholeheartedly adopted this approach and encapsulated it within its solutions using the term Datacenter Network and Infrastructure Orchestration (DNIO). By deploying RiT Tech’s data center orchestration tool, XpedITe, this data-centric approach will offer data center operators a clear return on investment that will come in multiple forms. These include reduced operating costs, improved utilisation of deployed assets, reduced project timescales and deferment of capital costs. DCIM has failed to deliver, let’s embrace DNIO and connect all the moving parts together in an open data-centric framework.
RiT Tech’s pioneering R&D Center in Israel is the birthplace of Automated Infrastructure Management (AIM), which is now integrated into ISO/IEC 18598. RiT’s data-centric approach has resulted in intelligent solutions to complex problems and is being deployed in data centers around the world.
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