Many who are calling for greater efficiency in the data center see it as primarily an IT issue. This is only natural, as IT is the data center’s primary function.
Of course, those who work in data centers know that IT is only one piece of an integrated, and highly organic, entity. Even the most efficient IT infrastructure is of little use if it is saddled with outdated facilities and operational environment.
According to Dr. Gerald Grey of the Electric Power Research Institute, true efficiency lies at the crossroads of a number of disciplines and technologies. Not only will you need broad convergence between IT and OT (Operational Technology) within the data center, but between the data center and surrounding utilities. Most likely, this will take place within a smart grid framework that can dynamically identify changes in data loads, power draws and other metrics, and then adapt to them.
In this light, it’s clear that current efforts at shoring up the relationship between data and facilities infrastructure are only the first steps in the broader efficiency challenge. The channel is awash in Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solutions, which go a long way toward matching energy distribution with data requirements. But most of these solutions stop at the data center walls, giving little heed to how the operation relates to the wider power environment.
That may be changing, however, as new generations of infrastructure management extend all the way to the surrounding power grid. IBM, for example, recently teamed up with Emerson Network Power to bring the Trellis DCIM suite into IBM’s IT Service Management (ITSM) portfolio. The intent is to foster real-time visibility across applications, infrastructure and the local grid architecture to provide broad control of the entire data center ecosystem. In this way, the companies hope to improve not only efficiency and resource management, but minimize downtime by confronting power-supply issues before they become critical.
As well, Siemens has upped its presence in the DCIM market with the new Datacenter Clarity LC platform that leverages the company’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software to form a broad-based integration and management system for the entire data center infrastructure. The platform includes HD4D asset visualization, CFD modeling and analysis, IT/mechanic/electrical asset management, and even a mobile applications module to accommodate the growing wireless infrastructure.
However, most DCIM suites are tailored toward single-tenant facilities that service traditional enterprise environments. For the growing legions of colocation and cloud providers, however, management is a problem because each customer has its own data and resource requirements that often shift on the fly. Schneider Electric is looking to address this challenge with a new colocation module on the StruxureWare platform. Key features include integrated tenant billing, grid-based naming and modeling tools and CAD integration to help operators tailor resources to individual clients and keep better track of who it using what.
The problem with most technology development is that it seeks to address issues that are present today, not the ones that will exist when the product is commercially available. DCIM fits into this paradigm in that most systems were conceived when the cloud and mobile infrastructure were just getting off the ground.
Still, the transition from static IT infrastructure to dynamic data environments is barely off the ground, so most organizations should see a broad range of DCIM solutions to fit the increasingly diverse nature of modern data environments relatively quickly.
Of course, simply deploying a DCIM solution won’t mean the job of lowering power consumption and cutting carbon emissions will be over. Remember, you can never be too lean or too green.