Once upon a time, data center management was a task reserved for really large enterprises that had thousands of square feet of data center floor space and teams dedicated to supporting it. But now almost any size organization can have a significant number of physical and virtual machines (VMs) deployed in a relatively small data center with only a few people to manage it. This situation dictates that these organizations put in place data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software so they can achieve the levels of efficiency and reliability that they expect without compromising either availability or support.
A recent article that appeared on SearchDataCenter.com covered what it considered the top 10 trends in data centers in 2011. While about half of these trends were applicable to large enterprise data centers, which are coping with challenges in managing legacy systems and having to downsize, others were applicable to almost any organization with any size data center. These trends included:
- X86 everywhere
- The shift in emphasis for server virtualization to data center automation
- A convergence in storage and data networks
- Continuing exploding growth in storage
- The emergence of DCIM software
Just because data centers are getting physically smaller does not mean that their challenges are any less as the number of physical and virtual machines under their management may still be in the dozens if not hundreds. Further, as the first four trends illustrate, the challenges associated with the ongoing management of any size data center are not trivial and arguably even more pronounced than when there were fewer people available to manage it.
It is for these reasons that a trend toward the emergence of DCIM software is occurring as organizations look to better manage their data center infrastructures with the same number of people as before. DCIM software that ships right now benefits data centers in four primary ways.
- Visibility into the infrastructure. Manually trying to determine on which physical server a VM resides and which networking and storage components is time consuming and cumbersome under the best circumstance. It gets even more complicated when one tries to ascertain how much storage capacity and server resources each VM is using and track its usage and performance over time. DCIM software provides this visibility into the physical infrastructure so administrators can know “at-a-glance” how their data center environment is configured, what resources are assigned to which physical or virtual servers and how the consumption of those resources is changing.
- Better decision making. Information is power and knowing what they have, how it is being used and how its use is changing help organizations make better decisions as to how to manage their data center infrastructure going forward. For example, if organizations see that each VM is allocated 50 GBs of storage but is only using 20 GBs, they may want to either allocate less storage capacity to each VM or use technologies like thin provisioning to preserve existing storage capacity.
- Automation/reduced risk. One of the principles to successfully running a large data center is to automate wherever possible because any time humans are involved, human errors almost inevitably follow. Using DCIM software, organizations can begin to automate repetitive but potentially error-prone administrative tasks, such as data migrations, storage reclamation and monitoring and reporting on server and storage utilization which are capabilities that advanced DCIM software packages offer.
- Increased application availability and operating efficiency. DCIM software puts all of this information at an organization’s fingertips so they can then in turn place the right applications on the right hardware and make sure each application is optimally using the resources assigned to it. This combination should translate into higher availability for the applications running in an organization’s data center as well as lower overall data center costs.
The time for DCIM software has finally arrived and it is no longer reserved for just the largest enterprise data centers as all size shops now need and can benefit from what DCIM software has to offer. All size companies are struggling to gain visibility into their increasingly virtualized infrastructures so they can make better decisions as to how to manage it, look to automate routine administrative tasks and, in the process, drive up the availability of applications running in their data centers while driving down costs.
This in large part explains why DCIM software is a real 2011 trend and we should see notable advances in this software. Symantec is one provider that has already told me that it plans to announce significant enhancements to its Veritas Operations Manager DCIM software in the coming months and to “stay tuned.” So as Symantec and others add new features to their respective DCIM software, organizations can look forward to being better equipped to manage their increasingly virtual data centers without having to staff up in order to do so.