Over the past year, modern data center managers have found themselves struggling to adapt to several changes in both the technologies and business practices that have transformed the way organizations operate and monitor their data centers. An increased focus on integration, edge deployments and hybrid data center environments, and the widening data center skills gap are just a few of the challenges data center managers must contend with as they begin to plan and strategize for 2019.
As 2018 comes to a close, let’s take a look back at some of the year’s top data center management trends and why modern data center managers need to take steps now to keep ahead of them next year:
- Integration to create a single source of truth. Creating a single source of truth is difficult when you have multiple systems for every aspect of the data center, and each team prefers to use their own data for the part of the data center’s operations that they own. As a result, more organizations are trying for seamless automation through integration with third-party systems to reduce the risk of human error, ensure data accuracy between disparate databases, and drive efficiency in their operational processes. Integration can create a single version of the truth that supports a culture of data collaboration across the organization, instead of focusing on one tool for the entire organization. However, connecting separate systems to break down organizational silos can be more difficult than it sounds, especially without the right tools and support from your management team.
- Hybrid data center management. Hybrid data center environments combine traditional, on-premises enterprise data centers as well as off-premises data center capacities, which might include cabinets and containment areas in colocation data centers, private or public clouds, or managed services. As more organizations add on- and off-premises capacity, these environments are only going to become more prevalent. The distributed nature of hybrid data center infrastructure means that data center managers will need to become more proficient in managing both physical and virtual assets across multiple locations.
- Remote management of edge data centers. Edge data centers are placed closer to the populations they serve (typically “Tier-2” or smaller metro areas), and as a result, they are often “lights-out” data centers that are managed remotely as part of a larger deployment. This remote management model comes with its own set of challenges and requires a different set of capabilities than traditional data center management, including data analysis.
- Dynamic capacity planning. Thanks to technology trends like IoT, big data, and AI, it's no longer sufficient for data center managers to react to resource demand and spend months provisioning new equipment for projects in the pipeline. Instead, they need to proactively plan capacity for projects in the pipeline and provision at the speed of IT, or risk a shortfall of resources, unhappy customers, and an inability to support business transformation initiatives throughout the enterprise.
- IoT in your data center. The thinking behind the Internet of Things and leveraging data for digital transformation affects data centers in more than just capacity planning. Intelligent instrumentation is more affordable, accurate, and easier to deploy than ever. Intelligent PDUs, UPSs, environmental sensors, door locks, and other facility items are generating massive amounts of data about your data center. Yet, data center managers struggle to maximize the value of this data and use it to make smarter data center management decisions.
- Actionable insights faster. Creating a culture of data collaboration and making smarter data center management decisions with data-driven insights are admirable goals, but they typically require someone on your data center staff to have the time, knowledge, and skills to make sense of the data in ways that have practical application. Data center managers need business intelligence dashboards and visual analytics that are faster, more actionable, and tailored directly to their most common data center management challenges.
- Bridging the data center skills gap. Thanks to the rise of hybrid data center environments, organizations require a combination of technology and management skills for effective data center operations in a world where traditional, enterprise-owned data centers are among the many options available. According to the 2018 IT Skills and Survey Report from Global Knowledge, 70 percent of IT decision makers said that their teams face a shortage of necessary skills that has led to negative consequences for their organizations, including delays in developing new products or services, delayed deployments of new hardware and/or software, and declining customer satisfaction. As a result, organizations are in desperate need of the skills that transfer successfully in this new world, or – like the respondents to Global Knowledge’s survey – risk unhappy customers and an inability to meet IT resource demand.
- Legacy data center management tools are going out of style. Legacy data center management toolsets are losing their relevance as organizations turn away from Excel, Visio, and early data center tools to embrace a more modern approach with second-generation DCIM software. Early adopters had found that the wide range of initial DCIM software solutions did not deliver as promised. Today, according to Uptime Institute’s most recent annual survey of global data center professionals, 54 percent of respondents have purchased some sort of commercial DCIM software, and 75 percent of those respondents consider their deployments successful. Driven by changing market conditions, modernized data center environments with smart devices and instrumentation, and improvements in the software itself, DCIM software addresses many of the challenges of its legacy counterparts.
- Data center migration and consolidation. To decrease operational and resource costs, data center consolidation and migration are attractive options. More organizations are consolidating their data centers to reduce their IT footprints or transitioning to cloud/hybrid environments and colocation data centers. Such migrations can be beneficial yet risky, time-intensive endeavors that are difficult to execute without the right safeguards in place as well as the necessary skills to manage the new environment.
- Data center energy management and optimization. Power monitoring, energy efficiency, and effective capacity management are constant challenges for data center managers, regardless of whether they are contending with corporate green data center initiatives or federal mandates like the United States government's Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI). Data centers continue to explore new ways of cooling and implement newer, more efficient hardware and instrumentation to decrease costs and improve energy metrics. Under pressure to do more with less, modern data center managers need to continuously find ways to optimize their data centers and drive more energy-efficient behaviors.
How to Adapt to These Data Center Trends in 2019
Keeping ahead of these trends may seem an impossible task for data center managers who are struggling to keep pace now. However, a comprehensive Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solution provides many of the capabilities necessary to streamline and simplify adapting to many of these trends.
For example, DCIM software is an important piece of your integration puzzle. Customer-configurable connectors to CMDBs, open APIs, and cloud connectors for virtual asset management provide the functionality you need to effectively connect disparate systems to drive data collaboration.
With many of these trends expected to become even more prevalent in 2019, it’s more important than ever for modern data center managers to be prepared to adapt their data center management practices to these changes. With yearly data center project budgets ready to be closed out, it’s the ideal time to consider how DCIM software can help you prepare for next year and beyond.