As the enterprise tries to make the data center more efficient in the face of rising operating costs, one problem keeps reoccurring: Disparate infrastructure makes it very difficult to determine what systems and solutions are in place and how they interact with each other.
The data center, after all, is a collection of assets, so it only makes sense to have a good idea of what those assets are and how they operate in order to either improve their efficiency or swap them out for new, better assets.
The idea of asset management (AM) in the data center is not new – in fact, it is a bustling business. MarketsandMarkets puts the total value of the AM industry at $565.4 million, with annual growth rates averaging 34 percent between now and 2019 to top out at more than $2 billion. The report segments the market by region, components, services, support and other factors, concluding that efficiency, management, planning and expansion of data footprints are key drivers, while limiting factors include tight budgets, poor awareness of available solutions, and a lack of perceived benefits. And as with most technology solutions these days, established markets in Europe and North America provide the bulk of activity, while emerging markets represent the fastest growth.
Of course, asset management is also caught up in the still-emerging cloud market. According to IDC, 60 percent of IT assets will be pushed onto colocation or public cloud infrastructure by 2017, while the same percentage of enterprises will cease direct management of their IT infrastructure as advanced automation and improved third-party services bring data infrastructure costs more in line with business value. While this will certainly diminish the diversity of demand for solutions like asset management, it will also require increasingly sophisticated and scalable solutions as the data facilities that remain will be larger and more complex and will produce significant returns even with slight gains in efficiency.
This is why developers of Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) platforms have begun to stress asset management as a key enabling solution. AlphaPoint Technology recently acquired N’compass Solutions in order to add critical management functions to its AssetCentral DCIM system. These include zero-time reporting, asset tracking and performance optimization to help drive not only greater visibility into data infrastructure but improved asset productivity and reduced risk in change management and data-business alignment processes.
In fact, the International Standards Organization (ISO) is working on a new Automated Infrastructure Management (AIM) standard (ISO/IEC 18598) to provide a uniform way to monitor changes to physical networking components, such as switches and patch panels. The publication would cover multiple network topologies, including carrier and industrial infrastructure, but in the data center, it would offer a common method of integrating data into DCIM platforms in real time, according to Datacenter Dynamics. In this way, DCIM would be able to streamline the work order process for changes and/or additions to physical infrastructure and provide a clearer picture of power, space, weight and other factors that inform the management process. A draft standard is expected within the next few months.
The data center is more than a collection of assets. When engineered properly, it becomes about the closest thing to an organic entity that wires and metal boxes can produce, capable not only of growing and expanding but, increasingly, adapting and learning as well.
But like any living creature, its physical health is important, too. Keeping track of the performance and capabilities of key assets in the data center is akin to having an x-ray or a CAT scan: You want to make sure everything is in its place and working properly.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.