The Intelligent Data Center and ITOA

ITOAOver the past 12 months I have visited over 25 global 100 data centers and met with the CIO’s from these organizations to discuss the concept of an intelligent data center and what part Information Technology Operational Analytics (ITOA) plays in their plans.

Unfortunately, only 3 of the CIOs from the 25 corporations that I visited even knew what ITOA was and those 3 didn’t have a solid concept of where it fit into the concept of a data center.  Therefore, my visits turned into a training exercise with one way knowledge exchange.  However, not all was lost as I have stayed in contact with most of these CIOs  and we are now working on putting ITOA into their data center technology road maps and starting to look at ITOA vendors and technologies.

It is important to note that my concept of ITOA goes a bit further than most as I believe that the “actionable data” that results from ITOA exercises should be automated by integrating the ITOA platform with an IT Automation platform or even a job scheduling platform.  As such I have been reaching out to the handful of ITOA,  IT Automation vendors and job scheduling technology vendors with an offer to introduce them to global 100 CIOs that want to integrate their respective technologies.  Most of the 25 global organizations that I talked to already had some type of IT Automation tool but none of them had an ITOA platform.  The ITOA vendors that I talked to were very interested in working with me and these CIOs.    And, one of the bigger IT Automation was also very interested in discussing the concept of integrating ITAO and IT Automation.  However, what was really shocking was the fact that several of the smaller IT Automation companies that I approached said that they very doing just fine in the small verticals and weren’t interested in even discussing the concept.    I would attribute some of this to technology  ignorance and some to a very myopic attitude toward market trends.     In any case, these vendors are leaving lots of revenue on the table as Gartner has predicted that the ITOA market is the “next big thing” and there are going to be some huge success stories that will rock the industry.

As another side note, I actually also believe that predictive analytics / machine learning will play a big role in adding more intelligence to ITOA and the associated IT Automation over the coming years.  However, I am saving this discussion for round 2 with my global 100 CIO friends and the vendors that may have an opportunity to play in this new market.   It seems that IBM Tivoli and TeamQuest already get it and I have also been told that HP has an offering in this area.   I would imagine that I would have been confronted with even bigger blank stares from the smaller IT Automation vendors that I talked to about this opportunity had I brought up the concept of machine learning and predictive analytics.  Oh well,  I have faith that one of the “little guys” will wake up and take a run at ITOA integration.    But, for now it looks like they have left it to the big guys once again.

Back to my original topic of  ITOA for the global 100, there are some remarkable opportunities for pushing the intelligent data center even further by monitoring, analyzing and automating “physical assets” within your data center that you might not have thought of.  This practice is commonly referred to as Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM).    Tim Hazzard,  President of Methode Electronics Software Solutions Group , recently published an article on the DataCenterKnowledge site entitled, “The Intelligent Data Center“.  He does an excellent job of talking about the opportunities for DCIM.  However, what he doesn’t talk about is how DCIM is another target / platform that could be integrated with ITOA and IT Automation.  Just a thought.

The full text of Mr. Hazzard’s article are as follows:

Data center designs represent a complex ecosystem of interdependent technology and processes. Solutions are rarely black or white, and sometimes an outside resource or consultant is needed to help make order of chaos. For data centers, a fully integrated data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution can be the answer.

Key to data center operations is their reliability. A data center’s infrastructure must be available 24/7 to meet the increasing demands of today’s virtual commerce and activity. If any part of this environment fails or has performance issues, the business slows. While higher-level performance monitoring has been available for some time, granular details have been hard to collect and analyze. DCIM tools now allow for an unprecedented ability to collect and perform predictive analysis of potential failures.

In a small data center with few variables, physical monitoring could be manageable for a short time. Staff could track select metrics and keep records in a spreadsheet or database. However, as a data center becomes larger and more complex, this method increases risk and can lead to potentially catastrophic results. A complex data center requires many systems to monitor information with each added asset. As operations and technology scale and become more robust, the data center manager can quickly become overwhelmed and engulfed in analytics and massive waves of data.

Some of the potential dangers are fairly obvious. Relying continuously on staff resource availability may not be prudent. There’s risk of missed critical reporting intervals, transposed numbers, or even overlooked warning signs.

Other threats may be less visible. There are hidden dangers lurking in uncoordinated assets. Temperature alerts might actually be linked to improper power distribution. Discovery of a relocated or missing asset might start with a security breach. Reliance of contractors to support the data center can introduce new security risks. Under an individualistic monitoring approach, an isolated alert might not quickly and easily produce the root of the problem and could take hours to solve, leaving company assets and revenue at serious risk.

Fortunately, new developments in data center monitoring and asset tracking now allow for real-time assessment of assets and metrics through a single, unified system. DCIM solutions offer the ability to seamlessly connect hardware with software systems, and provide managers with a holistic view of the data center’s performance and health.

There are many advantages to implementing a turn-key, integrated DCIM solution. What follows are the most significant benefits of a seamless data and asset management system.

24/7 monitoring with automated intelligent alerts.Modern data centers require around-the-clock surveillance. Demands on data occur at all hours of the day and night as companies serve global customers that expect constant access. Rather than solely depending upon staff to monitor critical functions and assets, an integrated DCIM solution can gather data at specified intervals and disperse it for real insight into the data center’s function. Ongoing, consistent reporting provides data center managers with the assurance that critical tasks are being performed, as specified, without interruption. Intelligent alerts also eliminate errant or unnecessary “false alarms” that are sometimes sent across multiple monitoring systems.

Better allocation of physical assets and staff. An integrated, turnkey DCIM solution can significantly improve operational efficiency across the entire data center, allowing for more productive use of physical assets and staff resources. For the data center manager, DCIM provides a holistic view of key performance indicators. With the right information, the manager can decide how to integrate resources and where improvements can be made.

In addition to properly allocating physical assets, forward-thinking managers also can evaluate staff resources and operational efficiencies. With intelligent monitoring, employees are able to spend less time analyzing data; and, instead, focus on more important tasks, such as maintaining equipment; delivering more predictive analysis to prevent potential failures, and providing additional internal services.

Reduced risk from proactive monitoring. Data center managers know there are many risks associated with operating a complex facility. The more elements and assets present, the greater the potential for environmental, energy and security interruptions. Rather than reacting after a problem has occurred, the right DCIM solution allows for proactive problem solving and prevention.

Across the world, data has become highly regulated, forcing data centers to comply with strict legal requirements for security. DCIM solutions allow for greater security across various features, balancing necessary access of appropriate staff with protection of sensitive information.

Scalability as the data center evolves. What a data center requires in year one likely will differ from its needs in year three. A phased approach can provide for immediate results, while allowing the time needed to research and add more sophisticated functionality.

When looking for a DCIM provider, it is important to identify a solution that integrates with the existing infrastructure and synchs with current assets. The right provider will work alongside your data center team to:

  1. Identify current challenges and business objectives
  2. Evaluate tools and processes in place, and assess how they can be integrated with DCIM
  3. Determine the most valuable solution for today with the ability to scale for future needs
  4. Ensure long-term value – from system design and installation to ongoing maintenance and consultation

An integrated DCIM solution will not yield a productive data center on its own. Like hiring the right staff, an organization must find the proper fit for its processes and philosophies. To develop a forward-thinking performance management and response strategy, an organization must determine the right DCIM solution – one that’s designed to meet its needs today and scale for the vision of tomorrow.

About Charles Skamser
Charles Skamser is an internationally recognized technology sales, marketing and product management leader with over 25 years of experience in Information Governance, eDiscovery, Machine Learning, Computer Assisted Analytics, Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics, IT Automation and ITOA. Charles is the founder and Senior Analyst for eDiscovery Solutions Group, a global provider of information management consulting, market intelligence and advisory services specializing in information governance, eDiscovery, Big Data analytics and cloud computing solutions. Previously, Charles served in various executive roles with disruptive technology start ups and well known industry technology providers. Charles is a prolific author and a regular speaker on the technology that the Global 2000 require to manage the accelerating increase in Electronically Stored Information (ESI). Charles holds a BA in Political Science and Economics from Macalester College.