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Data centre infrastructure management: Creating a competitive advantage
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Data centre infrastructure management: Creating a competitive advantage 

In addition, there is a responsibility to ensure the entire facility not only operates efficiently but reliably. Software and services running in a data centre are critical to daily business operations, so it goes without saying that in the realm of the data centre, uptime is a given and planning is a must.  

James Nathan

That’s where Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software comes in. It provides a holistic view of the entire data centre environment, giving managers the information needed to make intelligent decisions about resources. DCIM can gather information itself or use existing tools you have already invested in, like building management and electrical infrastructure systems.  

At the most granular level, DCIM can start as deep as providing information about what’s happening at the CPU of your servers. Everything can be monitored, from power draw to cooling and the efficiency of that server. Moving another level up, the rack power distribution units (rPDUs) are monitored (and can be managed), and at the rack level it can monitor how much power and cooling will be needed to operate properly at peak efficiency. From the rack to the row, it understands your capacity and redundancy. Information from the floor PDUs and the UPS up to your generators can be captured and put to good use.  

Regardless of which data you want to start gathering, DCIM provides the analytics to help you make intelligent decisions for your organization.  

Why does DCIM matter to Canada? 

DCIM systems allow data centre operators to match the data gathered at one location with another, seeing exactly how much it costs to run servers in one geographic location versus another. Decision makers can then leverage that information to make choices—balancing resources with costs. Canadian companies operating in our geographically vast country can benefit from comparing their own data centres from one side of the country to the other, comparing human capital, the environmental impact of yearly temperature, aging infrastructure of the data centre, and of course the cost of power. This is the information that lets you make smarter decisions. 

For example, we know that the winter temperatures are important for keeping cooling costs down in data centres (although some newer cooling solutions offer almost year-round, low-cost cooling). All the computing equipment in a data centre generates a substantial amount of heat but must be kept within an optimal temperature range to maintain maximum efficiency. Constant cooling draws a tremendous amount of power and contributes heavily to the operating expense of data centres. By locating data centres in certain parts of Canada, operators can take advantage of cooler average annual temperatures, drawing in naturally cool air to help keep equipment running smoothly.

The savings in power can be measured and tracked using DCIM. 

Additionally, hydro rates across Canada differ greatly — with some areas’ rates almost doubling compared to the cost per kwh of others. And with electricity often the largest expense (outside of hardware) it’s essential to understand where your operational expenses are going and how to improve. The cost of adding a single server to a data centre in Toronto versus Montreal is minimal but multiply that by 400 servers (10 racks) or 4000 servers (100 racks) and now you begin to affect a company’s bottom line and its competitive advantage. 

Again, DCIM allows for greater insight when making decisions on where to best place your hardware. Considerations such as power costs can be weighed against geographic location and human resources to make educated decisions.   

Better information means better decisions 

No matter the size of the data centre being managed, IT and operations decision makers have a responsibility to ensure the entire system runs efficiently and reliably throughout its life cycle. Even for small data centres, the insight provided by DCIM contributes heavily to the ability to run efficiently and reliably. As a data centre inevitably grows — regardless if it is in physical space or power — the usefulness of DCIM becomes even more important. 

With DCIM, decision makers can be better informed about data centre operations, downtime can be minimized, changes can be sped up and costs can be lowered.

James Nathan is an enterprise account manager with Schneider Electric Canada.

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