By Calvin Nicholson, Legrand

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the data center industry’s reliance on remote management. Little did we know 18 months ago that we would all become far too familiar with the term “remote,” particularly as an adjective: remote classes, remote learning, remote sessions, and even remote management. Research from Statista shows that before the coronavirus pandemic, 17 percent of U.S. employees worked from home five days or more per week, a share that increased to 44 percent during the pandemic. And while we are now starting to see a rise in the return to the workplace, the trend for employees spending some of their time working from home will accelerate as COVID-19 has demonstrated that hybrid work models are not necessarily an impediment to productivity.

Add to this trend the growth in distributed computing in the form of edge computing, and this only adds another degree of complexity in the overall IT infrastructure and software tools required to keep remote operations running smoothly.

At a minimum, at least five categories of tools should be considered by the data center manager and network operator to ensure they have remote management capability to all relevant IT infrastructure, including data centers, server rooms, remote offices, edge facilities, and colocation centers.

  1.  Switched Rack PDUs (Power Distribution Units) provide the capability to securely monitor and control device power through a network connection. These products combine remote configuration and management with power distribution and power/environmental monitoring. Switched PDUs provide outlet control for the reboot of locked-up devices and power-up sequencing. Additional features like Per Outlet Power Sensing can provide power monitoring per individual outlet /device. Power information per individual outlet /device includes current, voltage, power (kW), apparent power, crest factor, and power factor. Using grouping technology, power information can be made available per device, groups of devices (application), individual PDU, or cabinet. Switched PDUs allow you to:
    • Control power to a server or other device with a single command (ON/OFF/REBOOT).
    • Reduce in-rush currents through sequenced power-up.
    • Shed non-critical loads based on certain events; 1) the UPS is on battery, 2) the temperature level or, 3) the current load.
    • Monitor all aspects of the PDU and your power.
  2. Environmental sensors monitor the environment within a data center and support remote work and remote-management applications. They measure rack air temperature at the server inlets, as well as humidity, airflow, vibration, smoke, water, and air pressure. Some PDUs may have pre-installed sensors; while others provide for optional, plug-in external sensors. Another common approach is to deploy a completely independent intelligent sensor management system, which can be outfitted with a wide range of environmental sensors. The benefits of coupling environmental sensors with intelligent PDUs include:
    • Ensure uptime by monitoring racks for potential hot spots.
    • Save on cooling by confidently raising data center temperatures.
    • Maintain cabinet security with contact closure sensors.
    • Improve data center availability by receiving environment alerts.
    • Make strategic decisions on cooling design and containment.
    • Set thresholds and alerts to monitor onsite or remote facilities.
  3. KVM-over-IP switches leverage today’s Ethernet and TCP/IP networks to provide anytime/anywhere remote access, control, and management of multiple servers, PCs, or workstations. When the data networks are down, having an alternative means of reaching hardware remotely is necessary to minimize disruptions and downtime. Today’s KVM-over-IP switches have many options and can be configured to ensure access to your critical devices and to re-boot devices with one push of a button.
  4. As networking equipment is as important as your computer infrastructure, ensure you have out-of-band, Serial Console Server access to your critical network infrastructure. These provide control over servers, networking devices, security appliances, rack PDUs, virtual hosts, and wireless / telecom equipment anytime, anywhere.
  5. DCIM software (Data Center Infrastructure Management) – requires some upfront work inputting and maintaining data on what is in the data center, but once it is set up it can be a powerful tool for your facility, supporting the day-to-day planning, management, and optimization of your data center. It gives data centers the ability to monitor power and environmental conditions at the rack, row, and facility, helping to mitigate the risk of downtime by offering real-time alerts.

The data center industry operates on the foundation of risk aversion; in other words, resiliency and facility uptime are predicated on the ability to withstand any disaster. While natural disasters and pandemics are out of our control; we can ensure that we are armed and prepared with the most effective tools to support any remote monitoring and management needs, no matter what is going on within our work environment.

Calvin Nicholson is Senior Director PM Power at Legrand. He is responsible for overseeing Power product strategy and product management for Server Technology, Raritan and Legrand product brands for the company’s DPC Group globally. He holds a number of patents in both the power/data center and gaming industries and has held various positions within Server Technology, including Director of Product Marketing and Director of FW Engineering.