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DCIM can help solve the data centre disconnect: Forrester

DCIM is helping to put facilities and IT operations personnel on the same page

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Data centres are at risk from a fundamental lack of communication between the IT operations department and the facilities department, according to Forrester analyst Richard Fichera.

Speaking at Emerson Network Power's DCIM Delivered event in London yesterday, Fichera said that there is a “critical organisational flaw” in a lot of companies.

“Facilities reports to a different master than the IT operations side of the house, so in a lot of companies there's an adversarial relationship between the two,” he said.

“Facilities builds data centres, provisions them with power and bolts the racks into the floor, and then IT comes in and puts their servers in and if there's no space for the servers then tough luck.”

Fichera said that in about 40% of the companies that Forrester serves, the electricity bill does not go to the same management chain as the IT operations bill. “So how much incentive is there for the ops people to save power?” he said.

Stephen Hassell, president of Emerson Network Power, added that hypervisor tools have been developed by IT people, so when loads are moved there is often no check on underlying infrastructure, such as the available power and optimal cooling conditions.

“We've got some large financial customers that over the years have encroached on their margins,” he said. “What they've done in some cases is they've moved virtual loads and blown breakers.”

He said that when IT directors talk to hypervisor vendors, they are told to check things like CPU and memory before moving loads, but not available power.

“I'll ask the question, how do you know there's power available? And the answer I'll get back is: 'What do you mean? There's always power.' That is the way IT people see the world.”

Fichera added that the problem has got worse as servers have become more efficient.

“Five years ago, an idle server drew 60-65% of the power that it drew at full load, so loading it up with VMs had very little effect on the power consumption. Now the idle draw can be below 40%, so loading it up with VMs can more than double power consumption very rapidly,” he said.

“That improvement in server technology makes the infrastructure more vulnerable to those kind of dynamic effects.”

In the past, organisations have tried to combat this problem using various data centre monitoring and management systems. While these are good at providing point solutions, they are unable to provide a holistic view of the data centre environment.

Data Centre Infrastucture Management (DCIM) products like Emerson's Trellis aim to provide an integrated framework and architecture which ties all of these different monitoring tools together, and provide predictive modelling based on the ebb and flow of the workload.

“The question is not how many watts does a server draw, but how many watts and what kind of cost does a service generate,” said Fichera.

“That's a really complex problem because a typical service is potentially distributed over hundreds of computers, and virtualisation ups the complexity. It's too much data for a human being to even think about dealing with.”

Penetration of DCIM solutions is still in low single digits, according to Forrester, but Fichera predicts rapid growth in the coming years.

“The facilities folks really do want to understand what the demand side of that equation is. It's just they haven't had any practical way to do it. It's the same thing for the IT folks. They want to see down into the facilities side and see what's happening,” Hassell concluded.

“The desire is there, it's just because those have been separate disciplines, reporting to separate places. They developed tools that were specialised around their areas, and the two never really crossed.”


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