Gaining Control of the Power Infrastructure

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Reining in IT Energy Consumption

Many IT organizations don't account for energy costs when formulating their IT budgets and have little visibility into the true costs.

Although most of the attention these days is on the cloud and its ability to simplify, if not remove altogether, enterprise data center infrastructure, the fact is that no matter where data travels today or in the future, it will have to reside on a physical machine somewhere.

And that means there will continue to be a whole lot of power and energy infrastructure to manage and optimize both in and out of the traditional enterprise setting.

That's primarily why we're seeing such strong interest in Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools. Far from simply managing energy consumption and helping to reduce hardware footprints, the latest systems seek to optimize the relationship between systems, data and users and help lay the groundwork for upgrades and expansions as they become necessary.

The most rapid development is coming from the software community, where improved data gathering provides for real-time monitoring and usage analysis. The new dcTrack suite from Raritan, for example, provides a new set of Web-based tools that peer into multiple infrastructure layers to offer guidance on server and rack placement, as well as network provisioning, cabling and even power connectivity. The system is built around an intelligent search engine that looks into the relationships between power, space and network infrastructure, as well as physical and logical resources.

The focus on system intelligence is also helping traditional hardware vendors in the transition to dynamic, scalable infrastructure. Emerson Electric, for example, is gearing up for the launch of its Trellis platform, a DCIM system built on technology acquired from Avocent in 2009. Through extensive monitoring and pro-active management, the aim is to prevent system failures from happening in the first place, or to quickly pull damaged systems offline and make repairs so as not to impede data performance. Either way, the goal is to improve reliability of power infrastructure so that it can be more closely aligned with data center capacity.

It also helps if power management is closely aligned with overall IT management, primarily to ensure that changes in physical infrastructure don't negatively impact data systems and applications. That's the thinking behind HP's recent integration of APC's InfraStruxure Central solution with its Operations Manager suite. By tracking both sets of resources through a single interface, managers gain the ability to maintain a broader view of the entire data environment and accommodate factors like energy consumption and heat/cooling distribution into upgrade planning.

With all this development going on, how are data center managers supposed to choose the right DCIM platform? Fred Dirla, CEO of DCIM provider FieldView Solutions, laid out a list of key criteria recently, such as multiplatform capability for both hardware and operating systems, a browser-based interface coupled with the ability to reside directly on the corporate network, and the ability to analyze usage patterns down to individual circuits. A solid DCIM platform could allow you to squeeze 10 percent or more from your available capacity.

DCIM is expected to make rapid gains in data center circles as the industry continues to struggle with its enormous energy consumption challenges. Cutting power usage is an admirable goal, but it can lead to a world of hurt if it starts to impact data environments. By linking data and energy infrastructure under the same management platform, enterprises should be able to maximize efficiency without compromising their data integrity.