Pete Manca, president and CEO of Egenera (, says:

Data center infrastructure management is not just useful, it’s imperative. If you share my point of view that an IT network is analogous to a neural network, it’s easy to understand just how critical it is to maintaining business continuity. The data center is the cortex of the business, delivering critical applications, data, security and a host of other important business functions. When the infrastructure is working as designed, a business can run smoothly. However, when the infrastructure is interrupted or fails, it often has severe negative impact on the business: customers and partners can’t place orders; manufacturing and service delivery can be interrupted; vital information is lost. Not only can this result in an immediate loss of revenue, but a company’s brand can be de-valued or destroyed. Just think about the recent Amazon EC2 outage.

The benefits to optimizing data center management range from costs savings such as lower power consumption, capital expenditures, and software licensing costs to creating new revenue opportunities. For example, cloud service providers can stand up servers more quickly and accelerate revenue recognition. A financial services firm can quickly provision server capacity for a hot new trading application. The possibility of generating new revenue streams by improving data center management should excite everyone.

Where should data center infrastructure management rank in terms of overall priority in the data center?

Building and maintaining a reliable, high-performance data center is a C-level, even boardroom, issue. Organizations and individuals who don’t grasp the strategic importance of ensuring business continuity by maintaining application availability and planning for disasters put themselves in jeopardy. I recently read a blog post from a front-line IT consultant who identified the five top data center issues for enterprise IT executives. They include growth and expansion; cost control; governance; risk management and security; outsourcing; and resistance to change. The first four are clearly infrastructure management issues.

The biggest challenges for data center and IT managers when it comes to data center infrastructure management.

Reliability, security, and simplicity are the biggest challenges. It can be fairly easy to bring a new application online. However, keeping that application running through various outages and keeping it secure can be a challenge. How the infrastructure is configured and managed is key to consistently meeting service level agreements and providing effective secure. For example, creating complicated procedures for availability can lead to a fragile environment, and one that is often only manageable by a select few. Creating an IT environment that is not only highly-available and secure, but also simple to manage, is nirvana for the data center manager.

Overcoming the challenges.

These challenges can be overcome by embracing new technology to simplify the data center. Converged infrastructure (CI) is a good example. It simplifies the physical connectivity for storage, networking, and management interfaces, introduces automation, and reduces the number of moving parts in the data center. When done correctly, CI can provide for a more robust environment and a simpler infrastructure to manage. Why do with hardware what can be done with software? Providing consistent, uninterrupted application availability and planning for catastrophic events is also a must.

Choose best of breed and don’t allow for vendor lock-in. Choose an open solution that allows you to pick best-of-breed technologies at all layers of the stack. Options are always a good thing.

Server virtualization is common practice for many valid reasons, and there has been a lot of buzz about virtual desktop infrastructure, but the virtualization story doesn’t stop there. IT sprawl and server virtualization has added complexity to the data center. Service providers and enterprises are looking for a way to simplify the deployment and management of IT infrastructure. These challenges are solved by reducing physical hardware and converging infrastructure management.

The benefits of server consolidation and virtualization are proven and clear. But it addresses only half of the data center cost and complexity problem. Hardware virtualization eliminates time consuming, error-prone, costly human intervention and eliminating hardware components, including NIC and HBA infrastructure.