Introduction to Data Centre Management
Data centres are a critical part of business technology infrastructure, whether it’s an on-premise server room, or at the "edge", virtualized, in a colocation campus. The importance of managing this key resource cannot be overstated, as issues can severely disrupt the day to day running of essential business services causing huge losses in revenue and time. Management of data centres is usually undertaken by either a team or a single data centre manager whose responsibility it is to keep everything running at full capacity and optimised to allow workforce to access mission critical workloads and cloud access solutions.
What is Data Centre Management?
Data centre management can be defined as the overseeing of a series of processes, services, services and applications related to data centres. This includes the consideration of dealing with large volumes of equipment, software and data as well as maintenance and security.
Key responsibilities in data centre management include:
- Maintenance of data centre hardware and software, including updates and installation.
- Connectivity solutions to external 3rd parties using Internet Service Providers and Network Service Providers
- Managing data and application storage, flow and distribution.
- Planning and execution of robust backup methodology.
- Disaster Recovery and Continuity Planning.
- Day to day technical support (in some cases, additional out of hours emergency support).
What is DCIM?
Data Centre Infrastructure Management (often referred to as DCIM) is the centralisation of data centre management processes using specialised tools including sensors, hardware and software. These tools allow for the streamlining of the many processes that keep data centres cages, shared space and floors running at their desired capacity. Data centre management teams can use the data collected and presented in the software to intelligently plan, and monitor, changes in usage and bring together multiple independent systems to give a real-time view of IT infrastructure, bandwidth scaling per server clusters, server capacity, and state of agreed SLAs, e.g. room temperature and maintenance response times.
Most DCIM software is designed with ITIL standards in mind, meaning it follows the systemic framework set out in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) demonstrating best practice for efficient IT service management. Enterprise level DCIM software can also enable data centre managers to automate processes like checking thresholds and setting proactive alarms, replacing older tools like Excel to maximise data centre capacity.
DCIM consists of specialist tools and insight from a data centre manager working together to ensure a robust working environment where IT infrastructure priorities are aligned with business needs:
- Maximum uptime / availability
- Minimised downtime / risk
- Suitability and efficiency of applications and services
- Cost, contracts and license management
- Software Defined Networking management software
- Virtualised Machine software management tools
Problems with Data Centre Management
Management of a complex IT architecture involving data centres can come with operational difficulties, especially in fast moving agile environments. Data centre managers often have to reconcile legacy equipment with evolving requirements, as well as overseeing changes to systems with limited control processes.
Common problems with data centre management include:
- Ensuring SLAs applying to data recovery, uptime, application and network availability are adhered to, even when they differ across applications.
- Overseeing the deployment of new applications, products and services internally across inconsistent architectures and policies at iteratively faster timescales.
- Governing IT resource with respect to power, physical and digital capacity at ‘best cost’.
- Operating an ecosystem of systems, equipment, and multiple vendors across multiple SLAs, contracts, licenses and warranties.
- Maintaining legacy systems and equipment, often without up-to-date monitoring and oversight.
- Advocating for best practice in build and efficiency, justifying costs for cooling and energy density.
Advantages of Data Centre Management
Data centre management can be an invaluable insight for many businesses looking to drive digital transformation internally. The benefits of a fully optimised management process can enable further efficiencies, preventing waste and increasing operational agility. With the tools and solutions available to enterprises today, data centre managers can streamline day to day processes, allowing them to plan for the future.
Benefits of data centre management include:
- Definition and identification of all assets within the data centre ecosystem.
- Quicker rollout of new equipment and processes.
- Build relationships with 3rd party users to enable new services for workforces.
- Cost savings with cross connect services to internet and cloud service provider nodes.
- Access communities within the data centre to increase new revenue streams and partnerships.
- Increased operational efficiency resulting in improved energy and cooling costs.
- Revealing previously untapped capacity.
- Futureproofing capacity as well as the ability to plan ahead for growth in the future.
Data Centre Management Software
Data centre management software can be defined as tools that enable managers to collect and view a wide variety of pertinent data to streamline and automate tasks. Enterprise level software allows staff to reduce waste, downtime and risk. These tools regulate across common data centre infrastructure concerns: applications, power, equipment, and networks.
Common tasks enabled by data centre management software include:
- Data collection: Sensors and hardware, as well as software that relays information relating to capacity, power consumption and operational statuses across multiple sites and equipment.
- Analysis: The data collected is used in calculations to inform usage trends and monitor set thresholds, with real-time alerting.
- Tracking: Monitoring of key metrics (e.g. PUE, bandwidth usage, multiple office locations – WAN Services) across IT infrastructure to align with business goals.
- Automation: Workflow policy management with integrated tracking, change logging and reporting for increased accountability.
- Recovery & Continuity: Planning and setting procedures with backup server locations, UPS equipment and generators in case of critical failure.
Data Centre Operations
Data centre operations deal with the updating and maintenance of equipment, licenses, warranties and contracts. Tools specifically developed for this purpose can help to automate the updating of procedures, track documentation and schedule regular maintenance of equipment. Larger enterprises may require the management of support requests for both internal and external staff, clients and suppliers. Data centres often require the presence of on call teams onsite who deal with out of hours requests and alarms, but there is an increasing trend of ‘lights out’ data centre operations. This system is based on reduced human presence onsite, instead relying on remote monitoring, automated processes and specialist software such as Software Defined Networking - SDN.
Data Centre Monitoring
Monitoring of data centres is shifting towards a centralised, automated model integrated with advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The specialised skill sets required for running and managing data centres means some companies are looking for ‘DCaaS’, wherein the business is not responsible for any of the maintenance or the costs associated with scaling up capacity, like the options presented in off-premise colocation. The equipment is leased to the business and the subscription includes onsite or remote monitoring.
Cloud and its Impact on Data Centre Management
Hosting in public or private cloud adds complexity to data centre management. Hybrid IT solutions that include on-premise servers as well as multiple connections to cloud services, require monitoring and security. Data centre managers are responsible for consolidating services provided by cloud vendors to give business stakeholders risk assurance. Colocating can offer benefits in the streamlining of multiple private cloud connections and an eased ability to scale up without the complexities of managing owned assets, vendors and licenses. Other benefits include regained control over IT infrastructure assets, with a dedicated support team to manage servers. With colocation, businesses enter a communities of interest that serve to create strategic connections that benefit all parties involved.
Data centre management as a discipline encapsulates a wide range of essential services to keep IT infrastructure aligned to and servicing business needs. With the development of technology and AI, more and more processes are being automated allowing the diversification and optimisation of architecture. As businesses drive toward digital transformation, it's never been more important to take stock of your assets and see how they can enable the future.
At Interxion London we provide core data centre services in London based on operational excellence and efficient design, giving your business the tools to build a purposeful IT architecture. With Interxion London colocation we enable businesses to interconnect with communities of interest and build flexible, scalable hybrid IT infrastructure to grow for the future.