Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, data center managers were increasingly turning to data center software to manage their data centers remotely and drive smarter, more data-driven management. Now, COVID-19’s impact on data centers has included data center professionals being under orders to shelter-in-place and to keep the number of staff on-site to a minimum. As a result, more and more data center managers are leveraging Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software to remotely manage their data centers.
In our recent webinar titled “How to Remotely Manage Your Data Center,” data center experts Fred Bathje, Data Center Engineer, Argonne National Laboratory, Neil Cotmore, Data Centre Team Lead, Kingfisher, and Joe Keena, Manager – Data Center Operations, University of Florida Health joined James Cerwinski, VP of Product Management and Marketing, Sunbird Software, to discuss their own real-world use cases of how they utilize Sunbird’s DCIM solution to manage their data centers remotely.
Watch the recording here or read on to learn the key takeaways from the webinar.
3 Key Takeaways on Remote Data Center Management with DCIM Software
1. Data center health monitoring and threshold alerting improves uptime
Maintaining uptime remains one of the top concerns for all data center professionals. DCIM software combined with intelligent PDUs and environmental sensors provides the health monitoring and alerting data center managers need in order to know before there is a potential service-impacting issue. Plus, with visual reports of live sensor data overlaid on your data center floor map in 3D, DCIM software provides remote management capabilities that make it better than being physically in the data center.
According to Bathje, Argonne National Laboratory has always had the goal of reducing the number of people physically in their data centers. To monitor their sites remotely, they outfitted all their racks with temperature and humidity sensors and recently adopted outlet metered PDUs as their standard configuration.
“Having all of these reporting into Sunbird makes it so we can see what our power utilization is and what our temperatures are in every rack at any point,” said Bathje. “We have the thresholds set within Power IQ to know we are seeing issues overheating or power supplies going bad with power factor monitoring on our power strips. We’re also alerting on all that at the same time which makes it so we can see the data center without actually being in the data center.”
For Cotmore at Kingfisher, remote health monitoring is critical for providing early warnings of issues matter where the team is located. He shared an example of how this has helped maintain uptime.
“A recent issue where this proved invaluable was demonstrated in one of our main offices where an issue overnight resulted in loss of network connectivity,” said Cotmore. “It was highlighted on the health status page to our 24x7 ops team. They also were alerted via email, able to act upon it, and the issue was resolved overnight before the start of the working day so there was no downtime to any users turning up on site the next day.”
At University of Florida Health, Keena remotely monitors power trends to ensure uptime.
“If you see a spike going on and you haven’t made any change in the equipment in that rack, it can be an early warning that you have a power supply or another piece of equipment in that rack starting to have an issue,” said Keena. “When you get down to using per outlet monitoring, now you can trend at the outlet level and you can narrow down to what piece of equipment might be having an issue before the equipment ever fails and get the correct maintenance taken care of ahead of time.”
Armed with real-time data from power and environmental sensors, organizations can understand what’s going on in their data center even better than physically being on site. With reporting overlaid on your data center floor map in 3D, threshold alerting, and data center health dashboards, you can remotely monitor your environment to ensure uptime.
2. DCIM software makes it easy to remotely plan capacity and troubleshoot issues
Data center managers must accurately plan capacity and increase efficiency to reduce or defer expenditures. At Argonne National Laboratory, Fred Bathje remotely monitors trending data from temperature sensors not only to be alerted to temperature anomalies in the data center, but also to simplify capacity planning without needing to visit the data center.
“It helped our capacity planning to understand where we’re at as far as temperature, when we’re going to have make those changes within our BMS system to bump up the amount of cooling we’re providing to the room as we start to edge up to that 80 degree temperature,” said Bathje. “It’s significantly more granular than what we’re typically used to in our BMS system so it’s almost like a virtual walkthrough where we don’t need our facilities guys in there. We have enough temperature sensor monitoring and we’re trending it for long enough that we know what’s going on typically before they do, before their systems would pick up on it.”
At University of Florida Health, Joe Keena remotely visualizes his entire power chain for effective power capacity planning and troubleshooting.
“We get the data for what a piece of equipment is going to draw when it comes in and we can monitor it at the outlet for what it’s actually drawing and trend it,” said Keena. “It’s also good to look upstream from that piece of equipment and look at the PDU, the RDU, or even farther upline and see how is the load actually at any given time. Is it nearing the capacity that we want to have for that breaker or piece of equipment or is it plenty of room and we can continue to do business as normal? Visualization of the power chain really helps quickly identify what the next upstream location is rather than having to rely on the drawing that you have in the data center and going in the data center and tracing the circuits out.”
With DCIM, you can easily plan space, power, cooling, and connectivity and understand the potential impact of additions and decommissions in your data center with what-if analysis. Intelligently manage your data center resources to make more informed capacity planning decisions, use resources more efficiently, and save money.
3. Remote data center management software increases collaboration and productivity of people
Remotely managing your data center with DCIM ensures that work is done accurately the first time to reduce the number of visits to the data center and the number of staff required on site. Bathje, like many data center professionals, is minimizing the number of people on-site due to COVID-19. However, with DCIM he is able to remotely cue up work orders so that they can begin work as soon as they are able with extreme accuracy.
“We’re continuing to order equipment and plan for when we return, and that’s something we do all within dcTrack,” said Bathje. “We’re able to search for the racks that have the amount of power that we need and have cooling. Features we use all the time is searching for a rack that is within the customer’s portfolio because we treat some of our data centers on site like a colocation so we may have power and cooling but is it in this customer’s portfolio of racks that they’re allowed to put equipment in. That’s another thing that it’s actually easier to use dcTrack to do than to try and track it physically. Once we determine where it’s going to go, we get all that into our ticketing system, we know we have the physical space in the rack, and we can actually place it virtually and free the ticket for install for the guys who are going to rack the device up and do all the cabling.”
Bathje ensures that equipment is deployed in the optimal location by planning changes using detailed live data from his environment.
“[DCIM] helps identify any possible issues with stuff you’ve placed,” Bathje said. “There are some equipment that have weird functionality where they need proximity to some other device. And this allows you to see that and determine if you’re going to have the right cables to make that happen.”
Bringing It All Together
With data center professionals being required to work remotely, it’s more critical than ever to be able to properly leverage live data to improve uptime, efficiency, and productivity.
Whether you are just starting to consider DCIM for remote data center management or are already a user, these tips and insights from data center experts can help you maximize your value to your organization. Combine your new knowledge with DCIM software to drive smarter, more effective remote data center management.