Greater Efficiency Through DCIM

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Six Tips for a Greener Data Center

Create better airflow in the data center.

The first wave of data center virtualization and consolidation is largely complete, and as expected it was one of the chief factors allowing the enterprise to keep the lid on infrastructure costs in the face of rising data loads.

And believe it or not, there is still a lot of excess capacity to be trimmed down before the technology hits maximum utility. Nonetheless, many firms are rapidly turning to new ways to improve cost/compute ratios in order to keep up green momentum of the past few years.

For large enterprises, one of the most promising is Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM). Through greater integration between data and facilities management platforms, groups can achieve greater balance between data loads and energy consumption - directing energy away from idle resources to where it is needed most.

A case in point is Schneider Electric's continuing relationship with Cisco. The companies recently increased the level of integration between the Schneider EcoStruxure and Cisco's EnergyWise. Additions include plug-ins for the StruxureWare suite with Cisco's UCS Manager, providing an integrated DCIM stack capable of overseeing power, cooling, networking and even physical space conditions in the data center. As well, the Schneider PowerChute Network Shutdown system is linked to Cisco's Unified Communications Manager to protect against data corruption in the event of a power outage. The overall system, contained in Schneider's Torana Application Server, is intended to place management of thousands of data center devices under a single point of control.

Meanwhile, CA Technologies is adding tools to its ecoSoftware platform designed to provide greater insight into data infrastructure. The new ecoMeter 3.0 provides template-driven auto-discovery of facility and IT assets and now works more closely with the platform's Application Insight Modules to improve mapping between logical/virtual resources and the physical systems they reside in. The company has also teamed up with Cisco to enable smooth delivery of ecoMeter data to the EnergyWise platform.

Intel is also starting to nose around the DCIM movement. One of its newest middleware developments (that's right, middleware) is the Data Center Manager designed to gather real-time data on energy consumption, operating environments and other parameters across a wide range of multivendor environments, such as IBM, HP and even AMD-based devices. The system is licensed to a number of DCIM platform providers, including RackWise, JouleX and Power Assure, enabling a common data feed between infrastructure vendors and management software.

Like any software, DCIM's value is directly tied to its utility. If the system is too complex or has an unworkably long learning curve, it won't contribute much to IT efficiency. A big part of that utility is enabled by the user interface, where intuitive functions and ease-of-operation can make or break a platform. One intriguing approach is iTrac's Interactive 3-D Visualization tool, which, as described by the company's Gary Bunyan, lets you model your entire infrastructure and then point-and-click your way through various assets to adjust power, space, connectivity and other parameters. This could be especially useful for helping data and facility managers gain a common perspective of the IT environment that may not be available through standard text, spreadsheet or static 3-D systems.

DCIM won't be the answer to all your energy consumption needs, but it is a powerful tool in the arsenal. Its goal is not necessarily to cut the power draw per se, but to more closely match available resources with fluctuating data loads in a bid to end the perennial bane of the enterprise: overprovisioning.

Your energy bills may still go up, but that will be because you're processing more data, not because you need to front-load expensive hardware to keep your head above water.

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