Data center asset management and DCIM

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Uptime Institute recently weighed in on the topic of data center asset management at SearchDataCenter.com.

Uptime Institute Professional Services Consultants David Humphrey and Rich Van Loo both survived asset management software implementations in their previous jobs as data center managers.

They said few people are ever happy with data center asset management tools:

Asset management tools are often part of some other system — maintenance management software, a systems management framework, real estate management and building management — not a tool purpose-built for the data center. So they take a lot of effort to implement.

With data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools, vendors are getting closer to providing you with a complete picture of what you need to track, but they’re not quite there yet.

Humphrey and Van Loo said asset management software vendors can come in and show you all the reports their tools can do, but they don’t tell you it can take five man-years of effort to populate the reports. A lot of data center managers haven’t sat down and figured out what information they want out of the systems. How are you using the reports? What’s the benefit to your operation? Why are you generating this data if you’re not going to use it?

Humphrey and Van Loo recommended that data center managers start with an Excel spreadsheet for a year or two so the operations staff can figure out exactly what data they want to keep, and then they can move to one of the software tools if necessary.

I thought Humphrey and VanLoo’s comments about using DCIM tools for data center asset management warranted further research, and asked a few DCIM vendors to weigh in on that aspect of the software.

RARITAN’S DCTRACK

Raritan’s dcTrack leverages Ping and SNMP to discover and collect asset information. Information recorded includes names, network interfaces, memory, disk storage, processors, software and installation date. The dcTrack tool maintains real-time views and granular details of every asset and their connections across the entire data center — including servers, networking, environmental equipment, power and Ethernet cable plant. It also provides up-to-the-minute views of a data center’s power consumption, heat dissipation, and available floor and cabinet/rack space for efficient capacity management.

Screen shot one shows asset information that helps users view, edit and add server and network items. The user can assign an unlimited number of network and power ports and applications to each device, which can be instantly visualized on the device front and rear views. Built-in intelligence will allow the user to assign IP addresses and VLANs from available networks as well as assign color codes.

Screen shot two shows power distribution information. This screen helps visualize the circuit breaker panel as it exists in the PDU.

NLYTE SOFTWARE

Jon Temple, President and CEO of nlyte Software said nlyte Discover automatically scans the network to locate and catalogue devices in the nlyte performance management database. “This agent-less technology can discover all types of networked equipment including devices running Windows, Macintosh, UNIX and Linux, along with infrastructure devices such as switches, network printers, controllers and routers. Basically nlyte can discover and inventory anything that is using a TCP/IP stack.”

“As part of our application, nlyte also offers a robust Materials Catalog which contains thousands of data center asset templates and each one contains all of the common attributes for a given asset type such as size, weight, power and/or cooling requirements. We can then map each discovered asset to the appropriate template. This affords us the opportunity to build a rich data-driven, virtual model of a customer’s data center. Once that model is produced we leverage it to simulate the cascading affects of every Move, Add, and Change (MAC) before they are physically executed.”

EMERSON NETWORK POWER/AVOCENT

“We use Avocent DSView 3 software to discover assets in the data center as well as provide an access and control solution for these assets. All assets discovered, can be cataloged in the Avocent Data Center Planner software to provide a virtual view of the data center and show the exact location of each asset on a laptop or mobile device,” said Avocent Sr. Product Manager David Richardson.

“We use these tools to monitor and alert the condition or state of discovered, cataloged assets to indicate when a new asset is placed or when an asset is disconnected from the network and provide the notifications to engage the operations team as required. Both DSView 3 and Data Center Planner enable integration with third party Incident Management, Change Management, or Configuration Management toolsets to enable the enterprise to provide automation of these critical IT processes.”


Posted by mstansberry on 22-03-2011
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Comments (1)

David Humphrey and Rich Van Loo make some astute points about implementation. Rather like ERP, and CRM, and CMDBs, and many other database based applications before them, the return on investment case for DC asset management is made complicated by the project effort and the ongoing process changes required to really reap the benefits. The challenge for the vendors is to build up a reference-able library of case studies where the benefits, hard and soft, technical and financial, can be demonstrated over time. If we look back at the adoption of ERP, almost all the early stories were of cost overruns, delays, complexity, integration problems and general frustration. Today, no big company can manage without it. I think there are some similarities with DCIM. One of the interesting differences between ERP and DCIM right now is that the big IT consultancies were the torch carriers for ERP, growing rich in the process. Today, the channel in DCIM is quite underdeveloped.

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