Welcome to Next-Generation DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management)

by Bill Kleyman
10 September 2013

We are in the era of on-demand data delivery. The proliferation of cloud computing and information sharing has created a sort of data center boom. There are more users, more devices and a lot more services being delivered from the modern data center environment.

In fact, entire organizations and applications are being born directly within the cloud. To really put this trend in perspective, consider this - A 2013 Cisco Cloud Index report indicated that cloud traffic crossed the zettabyte (1000^7 bytes) threshold in 2012. Furthermore, by 2016, nearly two-thirds of all data center traffic will be based in the cloud.

Cisco Cloud Index Report - 2013

Efficient computing, converged infrastructures, multi-tenant platforms, and next-generation management are the key design points for the modern data center environment. Because we are placing more services into our data centers – there is greater need for visibility into multiple aspects of daily operations.

The picture of the next-generation management platform is that of a truly unified management plane

So what does that really mean? A unified data center infrastructure management platform removes “physical” barriers of a typical control system. The reason for this necessary shift can be seen in the job that the modern data center is now tasked with performing and the levels of monitoring that must occur. Next-generation DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) will remove logical and physical walls and unify the entire data center control process.

"Everything-as-a-Service" Controls. The modern data center is now considered to be at the heart of "The Internet of Everything." This means that more services, information, and resources are being delivered through the data center than ever before. As the data center continues to add on new functions and delivery models – administrators will need to have visibility into everything that is being delivered. Whether it’s monitoring SLAs or a specific as-a-service offering – next-generation data center management must have integration into the whole infrastructure.

Cluster-Ready Real-Time Monitoring. There is true data center distribution happening. These nodes are inter-connected, sharing resources, and delivering content to millions of end-users. With advancements in modern data center infrastructure, bandwidth and optimized computing – data center architecture has gone from singular units to truly clustered entities. This level of connectivity also requires new levels of distributed management and control. Not only is this vital for proper resource utilization and load-balancing; cluster-ready monitoring creates greater amounts of data enter resiliency. By having complete visibility into all data center operations across the board, administrators are able to make better – proactive – decisions.

Big Data Management Engines. The increase of cloud services has created an influx of new types of offerings to the end-users. IT consumerization, BYOD and mobility have all become very hot topics around numerous large organizations. As cloud continues to grow – more users will be utilizing these resources. With an increase of users comes the direct increase of data. This is where next-generation data center management comes in. Big data engines will sit both within the cloud and on the edge of the cloud network – also known as the Fog. There, these data centers will have direct tie-ins into big data analytics engines running on virtual and physical platforms. Because this data and the information gathering process is so crucial – complete visibility into the entire process is vital. This means that large data centers acting as hubs for big data analytics will have control visibility into storage, networking, compute, infrastructure and more.

Logical and Physical Management. The days of bare metal accumulation are over. Modern data centers are highly virtualized and highly efficient. New data centers are being built around optimal power, cooling and resource control mechanisms. On top of that – sit highly efficient high-density servers capable of great levels of multi-tenancy. Although some silo’d monitoring operations may still occur – the overall infrastructure must be unified in terms of management and control. This means having granular visibility into core data center operations which includes:

  • Power
  • Cooling
  • Aisle/Control
  • Alerts/Monitoring
  • Advanced Environmental Monitoring
  • Proactive Alerting and Remediation
  • Security (physical, structural, rack, etc.)

On top of that, data center administrators must also be able to see the workloads which are running on top of this modern infrastructure. This means understanding how virtual resources are being utilized and how this is impacting the underlying data center environment.

Cloud Orchestration and Automation. The cloud computing boom also created a big need around better workload control and automation. This actually spans both the hardware and software layer. From a next-generation management perspective, there needs to be the ability to create hardware and software profiles which can then be applied to physical and virtual resources for deployment. Finally, when this approach is tied into intelligent load-balancing solutions, you have a truly end-to-end cloud orchestration and automation solution. Now, although we’re not quite at those levels yet, next-generation data center management solutions are directly integrating workload automation options. It is becoming easier to deploy hardware and simpler to provision workloads. All of this means faster content and data delivery to the corporation and the end-user. Next-generation data center management will be able to have plug-ins into the physical and logical layer and facilitate new levels of cloud automation and orchestration. 

Mobile Data Center Visibility. It’s not like your data center will just get up and move around – at least not in most cases. However, having the ability to have mobile visibility of your data center is a need. This means controlling some data center functions from mobile devices and delivering direct web-based controls as well. Furthermore, because the data center is becoming more interconnected – there will be more functions and roles to control. There will be various types of administrators and mangers requiring specific controls within a single and clustered data center model. Role-based administration and management will evolve from the standard PC to true mobility. All of this will translate to a more efficient engineering, administration and management layer of your entire data center infrastructure.

Single-Pane of Glass – Complete Control. At the end of the day it all comes down to how well you can manage your data center. There’s no arguing that there will be more requirements around the future data center platform. As the number of services that the data center delivers continues to increase, complete visibility will become even more important. There will be more plug-ins, monitoring tools, and clustered nodes to look at all while trying to control resiliency. The next-generation monitoring UI and control platforms must be intuitive, easy to understand, simple to navigate and allow the administrator to truly optimize the entire data center infrastructure.

Tomorrow’s data centers must also have tomorrow’s visibility and control. The nature of the data center is changing. It’s now the hub that delivers core services, user applications, and entire platforms. IT consumerization and the increase in Internet utilization are partially the reason for the data center boom. However, the natural progression of technology has taken our entire infrastructure into a highly resilient and agile cloud platform. The ability to stay connected and have massive content delivered directly to your end-point is truly impressive.

As the business evolves, the data center infrastructure will have to follow suit. Already business initiatives are directly aligned with the capabilities of the respective IT department. This correlation will only continue to increase as the data center becomes the home of everything. And with the next-generation data center - there must be next-generation management and control.

Bill Kleyman

Virtualization and Cloud Computing Industry Expert