AutopilotThe dream of automation is to take away the guess work and most of the burden associated with piloting technology. This is what helped spark the creation of an automated system for flying planes: autopilot. The same dream of automation also resides with the professionals who maintain and run data centers.

In the data center world, there is no autopilot but there are solutions that help operate the data center efficiently. One such solution is data center infrastructure management (DCIM).

DCIM provides a comprehensive view of the systems and provides the ability for assimilating the capabilities of disparate systems in order to centralize monitoring, management and more intelligently plan the capacity for network infrastructure, power infrastructure, and other critical systems in the data center. There are many advantages to having a DCIM solution. Some include efficient, real-time monitoring and management of all inter-dependencies across IT and facilities infrastructures.

As the DCIM market continues to evolve, intelligence and automation capabilities continue to play a much more critical role in driving broader DCIM market adoption and creating a more dynamic infrastructure management capability.

Many in the industry know the CommScope portfolio includes an intelligent physical layer management solution called imVision®.  This solution provides intelligence and automation capabilities for physical layer management such as device discovery, identifying and tracking the physical location of devices, port capacity management and work flow for server deployment and decommissioning.

In bringing iTRACS® and its CPIM™ solution to the CommScope portfolio, we added an industry leading DCIM solution with capacity planning and analytics supported with best-in-class 3D visualization and modeling capabilities.  A key differentiator of iTRACS is its open systems management approach. It is vendor agnostic when it comes to software and hardware that supports critical infrastructure such as networking and power.  I feel this is an important factor when it comes to customers’ ability to realize the full value and potential of DCIM.

That being said, I believe the CPIM platform and open systems approach are well positioned to support greater automation capabilities.  At the same time, I also feel that automation of the physical layer management will be necessary to achieve the broader automation capabilities customers need to unlock the full potential of DCIM—and thus the full potential of their data centers.  This will become more evident as we continue to see greater convergence of IT and facilities systems, thereby increasing the importance of correlating information from the logical and physical layers.

So if the ultimate goal is to have some form of an autopilot for the data center, what role do you believe automation capabilities will play in DCIM and how important do you think they will be in spurring the adoption of solution?

About the Author

George Brooks

George Brooks is senior vice president of the Enterprise Product Line Management for CommScope, a global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks. He is responsible for increasing growth, profitability, and strengthening CommScope’s competitive position in the enterprise market segment. Mr. Brooks’ experience in the technology and networking industry spans more than 18 years. For nearly 14 years, he has led the development of a number of innovations under the SYSTIMAX® brand and helped create solutions to help enterprise customers manage their technology environments. Mr. Brooks began his career in telecommunications with Bell Atlantic in 1995 as a transmission engineer. He joined Lucent Technologies in 1997 as a technical sales manager and transitioned to product management in 1998. Since 2002, he has held leadership positions in various functional disciplines and over the past three years, he has led the Data Center business unit. Mr. Brooks holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s degree in business administration from Southern Methodist University.

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6 comments for "Can DCIM be the Autopilot of the Data Center?"
George Brooks

Hi Randall, Thank you for taking the time out to read and respond to my blog. My reference to automation has more to do with the data collection and exchange side of automation rather than a complete hands off approach to the whole of automation. There are various types of automation; some of which the data center market is not yet accepting of. An example of this would be automating action or command based on predicting an event or based on a specific condition occurring. I agree that the level of automation as a whole will vary by data center segment. In colocation/multi-tenant environments, I don’t foresee security and data segregation policies changing nor are we advocating a change in order to increase the level of automation. Again, my automation reference has to do with data collection and exchange. This, I believe will be one of the drivers necessary to move DCIM mainstream adoption. Regards, George Brooks

George Brooks

Hi Mike, Thank you for taking the time out to read and respond to my blog. We, like you, believe there is a tremendous amount of value in the fact that the physical layer is everywhere. I, too, believe that structured cabling can potentially play a much greater role with intelligent routing of data packets. We also believe the physical layer may be able to play a role in addressing some of the infrastructure management complexity driven by the technological advancements and trends such as virtualization and SDN. We are very excited about the DCIM market and the role that automation can play in the future with helping to unlock the full potential of DCIM. Regards, George Brooks

Randall Lumbewe

I am curious about how "automatic" the pilot actually is for this solution. Given this is for Data Centre management, the proliferation of Hosted and colocation data centres, I cannot imagine that there will be too many clients in this type of DC facility that would permit SNMP traffic (or WMI etc) for another party to then manage the connectivity. Automation is everyone's dream for managing facilities within the raft of facets encompassed by the DCIM "definition" however if a complete hands off approach is required then I believe there is going to be a lot of disappointment and a few crash landings on the way. Maybe I have missed something here and would be happy to discuss.

Mike Seden

“So if the ultimate goal is to have some form of an autopilot for the data center, what role do you believe automation capabilities will play in DCIM and how important do you think they will be in spurring the adoption of solution?” George, I agree with you that automation of the physical layer management will be necessary to achieve the broader automation capabilities customers need to unlock the full potential of the data center. Being a CISS, I am often bewildered that intelligent management is so often overlooked. In the field I watch technicians spend hours troubleshooting and documenting physical layer stuff, whether it is a move, add or change, or “where does this jack terminate?” Most customers have multiple room/rack situations, where they have 10 racks, 8 switches and 400 drops in 5 IDFs. CommScope’s solution with imVision is top notch. To be able to document and keep track of what devices are where, which ports are in use and which ones are available, and what services and vlans are being used and where, puts CommScope in the lead with intelligent infrastructure management. Being able to integrate intelligence into the data center will greatly enhance the configuration, compliance and performance management stuff that is there in place already. Which brings me to my point, if imVision is used you have the right intelligent infrastructure to work in the data center already in place. To me automation in the data center would be when a link goes down the equipment knows where to go to keep the data flowing. With thousands of software and hardware solutions available to monitor and manage the bits and bytes, CommScope is really the only one that’s got an idea as to what is plugged into what and where it’s at. imVision already tells me how many RU’s, and what is in each, keeps track of what kind of cable is plugged in, how much weight I have in each rack, how much amperage I can draw, what kind of service i.e. voice or data, which servers are on line, etc. The list is quite exhaustive. I’m sure that iTRACS is an awesome DCIM solution and brings more vendors, more deployments and greater opportunity to all of us, but I think the potential for greatness and automation is already here with imVision. We just have to use it. Thanks, Mike Seden Certified IPatch Support Specialist (CISS) Business Technology Architects (o)678-992-5356 (c)770-337-9052

Dick Philips

Nice discussion, a modest contribution to it; The level of detail in which DC Management currently monitors their multi-million business critical DC determines how much they can be in control. Can be, because it is not only technology that is important; monitoring is just a matter of gathering data. A DCIM solution brings this data into a context so that this data becomes information and people can decide what to do (read manage) with it. The latter one, people and a special place for techies (speaking from experience), are often the weakest link in the chain, also called the human error factor. Automation in combination with an holistic view of the DC is key to reduce, or even better eliminate this human error factor. Completely eliminating human error will probably never happen; someone has to go into the DC to do the physical stuff. So DCIM will probably never be the complete autopilot of the DC but it sure can be an intelligent DSS (Decision Support System). The level of intelligence and the amount of trust that we have in the DSS depends highly on the quality of the data that form the base of the DSS. The more data collected and the better this data is analyzed (intelligent correlation and trending), the more you’ll get out of the DCIM. In my view automated patch registration is definitely part of it, for multiple reasons.. Regards, Dick Philips DCIM Specialist.

Khaled Nassoura

George, Great blog. You are right on the money that, from a strategic view, for DCIM systems to cross the chasm and move past early adopters, DCIM would would have to focus on offering increased intelligence and automation. The company that can execute this strategy faster and better will see greater returns on its investment. Regards, Khaled Nassoura DCIM Advisory Group, Inc.

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