The DCIM maturity model: An important step to data centre efficiency and added value
Wed 1 Apr 2020 | James Orme
It has never been more important to know the maturity of your DCIM solution
Data centres are becoming more complex as the need for HPC (high performance computing), data bandwidth and latency outstrip the capabilities of legacy facilities. It is not simply customers generating more information throughput across the infrastructure.
The ability to collect actionable data, analyse and predict outcomes within the technical spaces provides one of the largest opportunities to eliminate energy wastage (up to 50% reduction in cooling energy costs), reduce CO2 emissions and reduce downtime risk. Data’s strategic importance to organisations has placed new pressures on technology networks to work to their optimum performance levels.
Data centre equipment moves or device additions alter the balance of power, cooling, space and connectivity and these have a knock-on effect on the capabilities of the technical space. Without knowing the actual or possible outcomes of change, how can we manage the development of the data centre on an ongoing basis?
Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) systems have improved considerably over the past few years and now provide the information to not only keep track of physical and environmental changes, but also to generate a live model for the data centre that delivers maximum value to the organisation.
Today’s DCIM offers a host of advantages to the organisations, including real-time actionable information about assets, power usage, cooling, connectivity, rack security, cabling, bandwidth and power delivery. Although DCIM systems vary widely and are available as modular software applications or as appliances, they collect standardised information from connected infrastructure resources and present a comprehensive range of information to administrators using GUIs.
Information is a crucial element to enable effective action. It is essential that a DCIM solution should be paired with intelligent hardware so that the data centre infrastructure can be monitored and controlled to deliver optimal performance. The interaction between a DCIM solution and a thermal management system, in particular, can yield significant financial and CO2 emissions reduction.
Different equipment will have different thermal characteristics. So it’s important that a thermal management system and corresponding DCIM solution recognise those characteristics e.g. the way that Cisco switches operate. With detailed information data centre administrators can optimally place equipment, such as in-cabinet ducting, blanking panels and shades, as well as cool boots, to contain and direct airflow to increase efficiency.
Another example is, the ability of a DCIM solution to track connectivity ports and recognise whether they are in use helping to increase data centre’s flexibility and expandability. Knowledge of port location and availability enables the administrator to quickly and efficiently deploy assets such as servers and storage devices.
Understand the maturity levels with the data centre
DCIM system relies on a wide range of actionable information, starting with the most basic up to highly detailed data that enables a high degree of control. A process we use with all clients and has provided excellent results is ‘The Maturity Model’ which allows users to understand their infrastructure – and how to manage it. Our Maturity Model consists of three defined levels:
Maturity Level 1: Basic information about the amount of resources you have available, such as the amount of cooling capacity you have and how much you’re using. With basic information, you are able to set alarm thresholds and alert notifications to reduce the risk of unplanned downtime.
Maturity Level 2: More detailed information, in context. For example, you are able to monitor power loads to quickly find underutilised rack power and determine the optimal placement of equipment. At this level, you utilise:
- Live colour imaging depicting data points such as temperature, humidity and sub-floor pressure, overlaid on a floor plan. This enables managers to spot problems quickly.
- Monitoring, which provides you the information needed to adjust and react to utilisation trends, as well as to plan for the future. For example, poor placement of blanking panels may create hotspots. If you are able to monitor conditions, you will be able to take steps to avoid failure due to overheating before it occurs. You may also compare the performance of your own data centre to ASHRAE guidelines.
Maturity Level 3: Still more detailed information, with a focus on enabling immediate action often with the aid of automation. You are able to see the location of each piece of equipment on the plan, and to see specific information about different vendors’ gear. You are also able to closely monitor and automatically control infrastructure components to enable the highest level of efficiency.
Data centres are strategic to most organisations operating connected technology whether utilising initiatives such as the 5G, IoT and associated AI and Machine Learning. These capabilities are expanding business processes, whilst also placing unprecedented demands on data centre capabilities.
To maintain effectiveness of our data centres every internal change must be met with corresponding changes to the four significant capacity management resources to ensure a high level of performance and uptime: Examples.
Cooling: Stranded cooling capacity leads to hotspots and thermally induced downtime. Overcooling, intended to ensure equipment safety, is expensive and wasteful.
Power: Underutilised power/stranded power capacity is due to lack of consumption visibility. Without visibility, it is difficult to provide accurate evidence of carbon footprint and energy consumption for “green” credentials.
Space: Inefficient utilisation and even asset loss due to poor asset tracking can slow deployment and hamper the effective utilisation of rack space.
Connectivity: Lack of connectivity tracking can affect equipment deployment. Disconnections and unauthorised changes cause risk to operations.
A DCIM system that will provide the information you need and allows you to do more with your existing data centre investments is essential. Knowing your maturity level allows appropriate actions to be taken to maximise your data centre’s performance and avoid unnecessary costs. Intelligent hardware that can provide the DCIM with comprehensive real-time information and that can respond to the controls that the DCIM system recommends is essential. In particular, a DCIM solution working hand-in-hand with a thermal management system.
Energy is the data centres largest expenditure, understanding your infrastructure and how to maintain it effectively will ensure more energy is focussed on the customer IT solutions and not simply keeping the lights on.
Written by James Orme Wed 1 Apr 2020
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