– Chuck Spears, President of Liebert North America, Emerson Network Power (www.EmersonNetworkPower.com), says:

Monitoring a Hot Topic for Data Center Managers

Data center managers are valuing visibility into their IT network and infrastructure more than ever according to a recent survey from the Data Center Users Group (DCUG), sponsored by Emerson Network Power. According to the survey of this association of data center, IT and facility managers, 56 percent of respondents listed adequate monitoring and data center management capabilities as their top data center concern. This is the highest percentage for the monitoring/management response in the history of the DCUG survey, which is now seven years running. In fact, in the five most recent DCUG surveys—all conducted over the past three years—no other concern topped that 56 percent mark. DCUG survey top three concerns 2013:

  • 56 percent: Adequate monitoring and data center management capabilities 
  • 52 percent: Availability 
  • 45 percent: Energy efficiency 

Today’s data center is an incredibly complex environment and increasingly critical to the success of most businesses. Organizations are consolidating and virtualizing servers and putting a premium on flexibility and scalability for their IT systems, which requires a higher level of visibility into the data center infrastructure. In fact, 89 percent of those surveyed said they had implemented some server consolidation or virtualization in the last 18 months and 87 percent expect to start another such project within the year.

Ongoing consolidation/virtualization boosts density by more than 10 percent

The trend toward consolidation and virtualization is likely the cause of a sharp increase in average power density in the facilities of those surveyed. The average reported power density was 7.89 kW per rack, compared to just 6.0 kW per rack a year ago, and DCUG members do not see that trend slowing, as respondents predicted densities of 12.17 kW per rack in just two years.

Now the challenge is to maintain or improve availability in this dense computing environment, while also reducing costs and increasing efficiency. Unfortunately, organizations are struggling to effectively and efficiently manage complex data centers because typical monitoring and management tools are fragmented. Consequently, data centers do not have access to the detailed, holistic data they need to understand the relationships and dependencies between assets. Nor do these tools provide real-time data that shows how assets are functioning.

DCIM adoption increasing to aid management and monitoring

In response, data center infrastructure management (DCIM) has emerged as a discipline for managing critical infrastructure. DCIM centralizes the collection of infrastructure data to deliver a single source of truth for planning and management.

The foundation for DCIM requires establishing an instrumentation platform to enable monitoring and control of physical assets. Power and cooling systems should have integrated instrumentation and these systems can be supplemented with additional sensors and controls to enable a centralized and comprehensive view of infrastructure systems.

At the UPS level, monitoring provides continuous visibility into capacity, voltages, battery status and service events, at the branch circuit, power distribution unit and within the rack.

Installing a network of temperature sensors across the data center can be a valuable supplement to the supply and return air temperature data supplied by cooling units. By sensing temperatures at multiple locations, the airflow and cooling capacity can be more precisely controlled, resulting in more efficiency.

Communication is crucial to improving data center operations

Communication with a management system or with other devices is provided through interfaces that deliver Ethernet connectivity and SMNP and telnet communications, as well as integration with building management systems through Modbus and BACnet. When infrastructure data is consolidated into a central management platform, real-time operating data for systems across the data center can drive improvements in performance, including:

Improved availability: The ability to receive immediate notification of a failure, or an event that could ultimately lead to a failure, allows faster, more effective response to system problems. Taken a step further, data from the monitoring system can be used to analyze equipment operating trends and develop more effective preventive maintenance programs. Finally, the visibility and dynamic control of data center infrastructure provided by the monitoring can help prevent failures created by changing operating conditions.

Increased efficiency. Monitoring power at the facility, row, rack and device level provides the ability to more efficiently load power supplies and dynamically manage cooling. Greater visibility into infrastructure efficiency can drive informed decisions around the balance between efficiency and availability, allowing data center staff to focus on more strategic IT issues.

Managed capacity. Effective demand forecasting and capacity planning has become critical to effective data center management. Data center infrastructure monitoring can help identify and quantify patterns impacting data center capacity.
DCIM technologies are evolving rapidly. Next-generation systems will begin to provide a unified view of data center operations that integrates data from IT and infrastructure systems. As this is accomplished, a truly holistic data center can be achieved.