Data center management, which includes DCIM, is responsible for overseeing both the physical infrastructure and IT equipment within a facility. This function is crucial for generating strategic value and managing billions of dollars in assets and information. Major multinational corporations, colocation providers, cloud service providers, and hyperscalers rely on effective data center management.

Dgtl Infra explores the ins and outs of data center management, from understanding its various components and the role of Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software to its challenges, industry best practices, and certifications. Let’s dive in and unravel the key rationale behind effective data center management.

Executive Summary

  • Data center management is a comprehensive process that encompasses the management of hardware, software, services, and physical infrastructure
  • DCIM tools provide efficient data center operations with features such as resource allocation, asset management, capacity planning, real-time monitoring, and change management to optimize data centers

Understanding Data Center Management

Centre Management Datacenter Managing

Data center management refers to the process of overseeing the daily operations of a data center to ensure it has sufficient space, power, cooling, and networking capacity. The goal is to maintain high availability, reliability, efficiency, and security of the facility.

Components of Data Center Management

Data center management consists of two primary components: facility operations and IT operations.

  • Facility Operations: Focuses on the physical aspects of the data center, such as power, cooling, and space allocation for hardware. Its responsibilities include both current resource usage and future planning. This component is often referred to as Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM)
  • IT Operations: Responsible for ensuring that adequate computing, storage, and networking resources are available to meet user demands. This involves managing hardware like servers, routers, switches, and storage systems, as well as administering software and network resources

Essentially, facility operations acts as the provider, supplying power and cooling needs, while IT operations serves as the consumer, utilizing these resources to support data center operations.

Additional components of data center management include staffing levels, physical and cybersecurity measures, disaster recovery plans, business continuity strategies, and vendor relations.

Approach to Data Center Management

Data center management is a cornerstone of modern organizations. It requires a comprehensive approach that involves six key phases: needs assessment, planning, design, operations, monitoring, and predictive analytics.

  • Needs Assessment: Translate specific business needs for applications and workloads – like high availability, scalability, and security – into data center requirements. These requirements guide subsequent planning and design
  • Planning: Based on the needs assessment, outline the types of servers, networking capabilities, and redundancy measures that will be needed
  • Design: Construct infrastructure to meet these data center requirements. Key design criteria such as total critical load in megawatts (MW) should align with the organization’s estimated peak usage, while availability should meet the minimum uptime needed
  • Operations: Develop consistent, repeatable processes for running the data center. Implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) and utilize automation to enhance efficiency
  • Monitoring: Continuously collect data on server health, bandwidth usage, and energy consumption. Use this data to ensure the data center is operating within design parameters and to identify areas for improvement
  • Predictive Analytics: Utilize machine learning algorithms or statistical methods to analyze collected data. This informs capacity planning – ensuring the right amount of infrastructure is provided at the right time, and at the right price

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM)

Data Center Infrastructure Management DCIM Operations Room

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is either a software-only solution or a combined hardware-software package designed for centralized planning, monitoring, measurement, management, control, and automation of data center operations. This includes resource allocation, asset management, capacity planning, real-time monitoring, and change management.

Utilizing hardware and sensors, DCIM systems gather information from both facility and IT components to offer an integrated view of the data center. Starting from the physical infrastructure, DCIM solutions collect data from:

  • Facility Components: Includes devices like uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, electrical busways, power distribution units (PDUs), generators, chillers, as well as computer room air conditioning (CRAC) and computer room air handler (CRAH) units
  • IT Equipment: Encompasses servers, routers, switches, and storage systems

DCIM tools are specialized for data centers and are not interchangeable with general building management systems (BMS). However, DCIM can be integrated with an organization’s existing business management solutions for a more cohesive operational approach.

Benefits of DCIM Software

DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) software offers several advantages that help improve data center management. It provides:

Enhanced Monitoring and Control

DCIM software offers real-time monitoring of critical data center metrics, including power consumption, temperature, humidity, pressure, air flow, and IT equipment performance. This granular tracking extends even to the power usage of individual servers within a specific rack.

The software consolidates this raw data into actionable reports and dashboards, offering business intelligence insights. Organizations can use this information to fine-tune their current resource usage and strategically plan for future data center needs, covering aspects like processing capacity, power, cooling, and space allocation.

DCIM Report Displays Efficiency Capacity Consumption Performance Alarm Indicators on Screen
Source: Nlyte.

As a result, data center operators can maintain optimal conditions, reduce the risk of hardware failure, and enhance overall operational reliability.

Energy Efficiency

One of the primary expenses in operating a data center is energy consumption. DCIM tools enable organizations to monitor, measure, and analyze this usage effectively. These tools provide insights into a data center’s energy efficiency and help identify areas where energy is being wasted. This information allows for the introduction of energy-saving strategies and recommendations for reducing energy use.

For example, by scheduling workloads, data centers can focus computational tasks on fewer servers during times of low demand. This allows idle servers to enter low-power modes, ultimately reducing energy use. Such measures not only support sustainability goals but also reduce costs.

Cost Savings

DCIM software addresses the pervasive issue of resource over-provisioning in data centers. Administrators frequently allocate excess resources, leading to hardware inefficiency, increased costs, and unused capacity. By optimizing resource usage, DCIM software not only reduces operational costs but also minimizes capital expenditures on servers, storage, and networking hardware.

Automated Workflows

Automated workflows are a key advantage of DCIM software, streamlining manual operations and ensuring consistency across both facility and IT systems. DCIM captures a data center’s best practices, turning complex tasks like server installation into simplified, automated workflows. For instance, a standard workflow could include steps such as requesting a server, placing the order, receiving the product, setting up power and network configurations, installing software, and finally verifying the server’s functionality.

Moreover, DCIM’s ability to integrate with existing business management applications amplifies the effectiveness of these automated workflows. This integration coordinates metrics and procedures across multiple platforms.

Overall, automated workflows not only speed up processes but also improve labor efficiency and minimize the risk of human error.

Key Features of DCIM Tools

DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) tools provide several key features that enhance data center management. These include:

Asset Management

DCIM tools maintain a centralized database to monitor all physical and virtual assets in a data center, including the layout and cable connections. They specifically track the following:

  • IT Devices and Virtualization Components: Includes servers, storage devices, network devices like switches, routers, and firewalls, as well as virtual elements like hypervisors, virtual machines (VMs), and virtual network functions (VNFs)
  • Mechanical and Electrical Infrastructure: Includes uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, electrical busways, power distribution units (PDUs), generators, chillers, and HVAC systems like computer room air conditioning (CRAC) and computer room air handler (CRAH) units

Each data center asset has multiple unique identifiers, which can vary from its physical attributes and location to its connections with other data center assets, ownership details, and maintenance coverage. For instance, one such identifier could be port availability, which helps in assessing open power and data ports for new equipment.

Asset management through DCIM offers a unified view for overseeing data center assets throughout their lifecycle. This is vital for effective planning and optimization, as DCIM tools can monitor assets from the moment an order is placed, through delivery, installation, operation, and decommissioning.

Capacity Planning

DCIM tools are essential for capacity planning, as they provide features that assess current resource utilization and predict future requirements. Using historical data, DCIM tools forecast when additional capacity will be needed and estimate the associated costs. By proactively managing space, power, cooling, and network connectivity, these tools minimize the risk of outages and help organizations avoid either over-provisioning or under-provisioning resources.

Additionally, DCIM tools can recommend optimal locations for installing new hardware by generating virtual representations of the data center floor, equipment racks, installed gear, and associated connectivity. This helps in maximizing space, power, and cooling efficiencies.

DCIM tools are also critical for preventing stranded capacity, which occurs when allocated resources become fragmented and less efficient over time. Stranded capacity can also arise when different types of resources are not co-located. For example, a data center may have ample power but insufficient cooling to install high-density servers. In such scenarios, the available power becomes “stranded” as it cannot be fully utilized.

Real-Time Monitoring

DCIM solutions continuously track a wide range of operational metrics within a data center, including power consumption, temperature, humidity, pressure, air flow, and IT equipment usage. This real-time monitoring enables quick intervention to address faults or inefficiencies, ensuring optimal data center performance. For instance, if a specific server fails, real-time monitoring allows a data center manager to detect and address the issue within minutes rather than hours or days.

Additionally, DCIM solutions help address challenges such as network latency and high data transfer costs. They do this by offering features like local data aggregation, which minimizes delays and ensures effective monitoring. These issues are particularly prevalent when managing geographically dispersed data centers, as they can impact the real-time capabilities of the DCIM suite.

Change Management

DCIM solutions help in scheduling and documenting changes to data center configurations. These changes can include movements, modifications, additions, or upgrades to the infrastructure.

DCIM solutions provide detailed step-by-step procedures to minimize the chance of human error during task execution. They monitor the progress of activities, ensure compliance with official procedures, and log timestamps for each task. By doing so, they enable controlled and fully traceable changes, thereby reducing the likelihood of errors and system outages.

Factors like cost considerations, the implementation of high-density computing and virtualization, as well as the introduction of new networking or storage technologies, contribute to significant changes within the data center. Therefore, effective change management through DCIM solutions is crucial for maintaining stability and efficiency in the data center.

READ MORE: Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) – An Overview

Overcoming Data Center Management Challenges

Overcoming Data Center Management Challenges Managing Infrastructure

Data center management comes with its fair share of challenges, such as rapidly increasing levels of Internet traffic, widespread adoption of cloud technologies, obsolete infrastructure, and a host of new regulatory requirements. These challenges are driving organizations to reevaluate and improve their data center management strategies.

Let’s take a closer look at the various challenges that data center managers and data center operators may face and how they can overcome these challenges.

Capacity and Availability Issues

IT requirements continually outpace facility capacity. This data center capacity management imbalance leads to availability issues, affecting both internal operations and customer experiences. A robust scaling strategy, incorporating virtualization and edge computing, is essential to balance the load and keep the systems running efficiently.

Labor Shortage

The data center industry is running out of skilled labor essential for designing and operating data center facilities. A data center manager plays a critical role in addressing this issue, as they are responsible for implementing automated management solutions and investing in ongoing staff training that can help fill the gaps and maintain operational efficiency.

Space, Power, and Cooling

Modern data centers are quickly running out of space, power, and cooling resources. Innovative designs like modular data centers and advanced cooling techniques such as liquid cooling can help mitigate these issues. Additionally, efficient energy management can significantly reduce operational costs.

Operational Costs

The cost of operating a data center is rising dramatically due to the increasing cost of energy. Energy-efficient hardware and the implementation of intelligent energy management systems can go a long way in curbing these escalating costs.

Increasing Power Density

The power density per rack is also increasing, rising from traditional data center ranges of 4 kW to 6 kW per rack to power densification levels of 10 kW per rack and higher. Advanced power distribution units (PDUs) and real-time monitoring can help in effective power management.

Certifications for Data Center Management

Certifications for Centre ISO Uptime Institute

Navigating the complexities of data center management requires adhering to a range of industry standards and certifications that assure quality, reliability, and efficiency. Here is a selection of key certifications and what they entail for data centers.

  • ISO 27001 – Information Security Management: Focuses on establishing and maintaining an Information Security Management System (ISMS) to protect against unauthorized access and cyber threats, enhancing data center security
  • ISO 20000 – Information Technology Service Management: Specifies criteria for an IT Service Management (ITSM) system, ensuring reliable and high-quality IT service delivery
  • ISO 22301 – Business Continuity Management: Addresses preparations, response, and recovery from disruptive incidents; ensures business continuity plans are in place for system failures or other disruptions
  • ISO 9001 – Quality Management: Emphasizes efficient operations and continuous improvement to meet customer and regulatory requirements
  • ISO 50001 – Energy Management: Focuses on efficient energy use, helping data centers reduce costs and environmental impact
  • ISO 14001 – Environmental Management: Requires data centers to identify and control their environmental impact, promoting environmentally responsible practices
  • ISO 45001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management: Aims to provide safe and healthy workplaces, focusing on preventing accidents and health issues among employees
  • Uptime Institute’s Tier Classification: Provides a performance-based evaluation of data center infrastructure in terms of reliability, availability, and resilience

READ MORE: Data Center Tiers – What’s the Difference Between 1, 2, 3, and 4?

Summary

Data center management is a critical aspect of ensuring the smooth functioning of data centers in today’s digital age. By understanding the various components, approaches, and tools involved in data center management, including Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM), asset management, capacity planning, real-time monitoring, and change management, data center managers can overcome challenges and ensure their facilities operate efficiently and securely.

Mary Zhang covers Data Centers for Dgtl Infra, including Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX), Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), CyrusOne, CoreSite Realty, QTS Realty, Switch Inc, Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM), Cyxtera (NASDAQ: CYXT), and many more. Within Data Centers, Mary focuses on the sub-sectors of hyperscale, enterprise / colocation, cloud service providers, and edge computing. Mary has over 5 years of experience in research and writing for Data Centers.

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