David Appelbaum, vice president of marketing at Sentilla Corporation, says:

An experienced pilot is comfortable flying a small plane by sight in good weather. But, if you put that same pilot in a jumbo jet in foggy weather, he or she will need cockpit instrumentation, a flight plan and air traffic control support.

Today’s data center is more like the jumbo jet in the fog than the small plane. There are many moving parts. New technologies like virtualization add layers of abstraction to the data center. Applications –and especially data– grow exponentially. Power, space, and storage are expensive and finite, yet you need to keep all the business-critical applications running.

To plan for tomorrow’s data center infrastructure, you need visibility into what’s happening today. Relevant metrics show not only what’s happening, but also how it relates to other parts of the data center and to your costs:
  • What’s the ongoing operational and management cost of one application versus another?
  • What’s your data center’s power capacity versus utilization?
  • Do you have enough compute, network, storage, power, and space to add this new application?
  • Which applications aren’t using much of their capacity, and can you reclaim capacity by virtualizing them?

In the absence of good information, you have to make decisions based on hunches, trends, and incomplete, disconnected data. The safest choice may be over-provisioning. This kind of ‘flying blind’ is a risky and expensive way to run a data center.

Having better visibility is the essential first step in moving towards a more mature approach to infrastructure management. With visibility in place, you can start proactively planning based on predictions and forecasts, and eventually move towards KPI-driven data center management.

If you’re managing your data center as if you were piloting that jumbo jet in the fog, implementing a unified data center performance management solution can help you move up the maturity cycle.
  1. Start by monitoring and analyzing capacity and utilization of all of the data center assets (including virtual, physical and facility layers). This insight will help you cut costs, reclaim under-used capacity and avoid over-provisioning. 
  2. With a unified data center performance management solution in place, move to a proactive planning approach: use predictive analysis and what-if scenarios to make smart decisions. This approach helps you optimize your IT spending and availability while alerting you to potential constraints beforethey cause availability or performance problems.
  3. With a firm understanding of business needs and data center performance, adopt a KPI-driven data center approach, enforcing service levels and understanding the true cost of services. Data centers in this stage of maturity are best positioned to align resource spending with business needs.

Just as you don’t want to fly that jumbo jet without instrumentation, you don’t want to plan your data center capacity based on incomplete data and best guesses. But, getting these metrics means moving beyond the isolated enterprise IT management, virtualization management and facilities monitoring tools that you may have in place today.