As with any technology, monitoring performance is important because you have to have a baseline performance metric in order to assess system operations. The challenge with data-center monitoring is that there are so many interdependent components that there is a lot to watch, and it’s not always clear how the components interact or which metrics are most critical to operations.
Data-center monitoring, which is also known as data-center infrastructure management (DCIM), encompasses every aspect of data-center operations. Gartner defines DCIM tools to measure; manage; and control data-center operations, energy consumption, all IT equipment (servers, storage, and network switches), and facility infrastructure (power distribution and cooling). DCIM tools can be delivered as software, as software/hardware appliances, or as DCIM-as-a-service and provide an overview of operations with granularity down to the rack level. It’s a lot of infrastructure to monitor, so finding the right resources to make the job easier is important.
The Essentials of DCIM
Hundreds of companies offer some kind of data-center monitoring solution, so when shopping for DCIM solutions, you want to make sure the platform includes essential monitoring functions. These are some of the most critical aspects of any DCIM platform:
Asset configuration and change management – Tracking shifting data-center assets can be daunting. If a server goes down, you need to be able to identify the fault fast, and that means being able to locate the fault and get detailed information about its configuration quickly. Change management is equally important. You need to track additions to the infrastructure and changes to configurations in order to track systems that could affect network performance.
Real-time monitoring – Data-center downtime is expensive—at least $7,900 per minute—so keeping track of network performance in real time is essential. You need to keep track of data-center systems and operations in the computer room in order to make sure critical servers and systems stay online. You also need to monitor network devices in order to make sure the network infrastructure remains up and running. In addition, you need to manage the building infrastructure, monitoring power systems and mechanical equipment that keep the data-center operational.
Workflow – Every time you add a new server or piece of hardware or software to the data center, it requires multiple steps that affect different parts of the data center. A DCIM solution should coordinate the server installation steps, verifying that all the necessary steps have been completed before the new hardware or software goes online.
Analytics and reporting – So many data are flowing through the network that it becomes impossible to keep track of them all. The DCIM platform needs to be able to sort through the data quickly, triggering alarms and graphing performance data for enterprise troubleshooting.
Visualization – In addition to analytics, DCIM tools need to provide a visual view of network operations down to the rack level, with layers to show operating parameters, rack utilization, power, etc. This is one capability where vendors will differ substantially. Most platforms provide top-down views, but some also will provide fly-through or three-dimensional views.
Capacity planning – Using DCIM systems in order to collect performance data facilitates capacity planning. The usage of historical data and analysis of usage patterns make it easier to maximize use of key resources, such as power and cooling, and make accurate predictions for data-center expansion.
Integration compatibility – No DCIM solution will be able to address every systems management issue, so choose an open DCIM platform that can integrate with other change management, modeling, asset management, and third-party tools.
The Leading DCIM Vendors
Once you understand what to look for, it becomes easier to compare DCIM solutions. Every platform should have basic data-center monitoring capabilities, but you need to identify the value-added features that are most important to your data-center customers.
Here is a list of 17 DCIM vendors that Gartner has listed as the leading vendors that are providing tools for data-center monitoring:
1. ABB – ABB offers Decathlon for Data Centers, an integratable DCIM system for managing and automating energy management for IT systems, including energy efficiency, cooling, and maximum reliability.
2. CA Technologies – CA DCIM provides real-time monitoring of power distribution and consumption, including measurements, trends, and alerts that require attention.
3. CommScope – CommScope acquired iTRACS DCIM in 2013 and now offers it as a centralized DCIM tool that aggregates, analyzes, and visualizes data-center infrastructure information for real-time insight.
4. Cormant – Cormant-CS is a solution that uses configurability, discovery, and historical data in order to provide a holistic view of global resources and can be used for change management and workflow configuration, as well as monitoring and auditing.
5. Device42 – Device42’s DCIM software automates monitoring and management and uses visualization tools in order to provide drag-and-drop diagrams of rack systems with detailed device information about each rack unit, as well as power and thermal mapping and management tools and data-center auto-discovery.
6. Emerson Network Power – Trellis is Emerson Network Power’s DCIM suite encompassing data-center monitoring, capacity planning, asset management, and energy management, with modules under different brands working together in order to control power, load, switching and controls, thermal operations, and more.
7. FieldView Solutions – FieldView is a browser-based DCIM solution designed to provide enterprise management through a single pane of glass. It features a real-time data collection engine and can access information from virtually any enterprise asset. It also normalizes performance metrics and analytics in order to help with planning as well as management.
8. FNT – FNT has been providing DCIM software for 20 years. It is a central management and optimization software platform that provides a view of the data center from building infrastructure to IT infrastructure to services. It is an open platform that is highly integrated and automated.
9. Geist – Geist’s DCIM framework provides real-time monitoring and alerts and is designed to extend operational awareness to predictive analysis. Geist has products that offer a holistic view of the data center, as well as a rack view and a full range of support services.
10. IO – IO offers modular technology for its own colocation platforms and offers IO.OS as a stand-alone DCIM product with real-time data gathering; physical, logical, and infrastructure views; and more.
11. Modius – Modius OpenData is a scalable software platform that offers real-time data gathering of asset information and operational intelligence for large, complex data environments.
12. nlyte Software – nlyte Software’s nlyte7 software is designed to automate processes, policies, and dependencies in order to simplify the dynamics of data-center management.
13. Optimum Path – Visual Data Center is a unified platform that aggregates and centralizes asset, facilities, and security data with 3D modeling.
14. Panduit – Panduit’s SmartZone provides a consolidated view across data centers in order to monitor multiple sites and centralize data with drill-down access across the enterprise.
15. Rackwise – DCIM X from Rackwise is a full-featured DCIM tool that is more affordable for smaller enterprises, thanks to a concurrent user-licensing model.
16. Raritan – Power IQ from Raritan is for data-center and facility managers who need to monitor their power infrastructure using heat maps, power analytics, cooling chards, and other features.
17. Schneider Electric – In addition to a full suite of services, Schneider Electric offers StruxureWare, a DCIM suite designed to collect and manage asset data throughout the data center’s life cycle.
Each of these vendor solutions has its pluses and minuses, depending on data-center configuration and requirements. Resellers should familiarize themselves with vendor solutions that match their customers’ needs and help deliver the insight to manage and extend data-center assets.