DCIM's role in the data center balancing act

DCIM's role in the data center balancing act

DCIM helps data center managers make confident decisions in a precarious environment.

Running a business can be a difficult undertaking, especially when that business is as dynamic as a data center. Significant amounts of time, effort and resources go into keeping a data center operational. From an energy-efficiency perspective, hardware and cooling components must stay up and running around the clock. This means there is little to no reprieve in resource consumption. From an equipment standpoint, the goal is to have the most reliable hardware so as to eliminate the threat of downtime.

Data center managers must therefore do what they can to keep costly energy consumption to a minimum without sacrificing the integrity of the overall operation. Add in the fact that data centers strive to abide by strict compliance measures from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and it becomes clear that data center management is essentially a tightrope act: Waver just a little, and risk plummeting into a sea of downtime and wasted resources.

An industry under scrutiny

Data centers use massive quantities of energy every year. According to a report from the Natural Resource Defense Council, U.S. data centers consumed approximately 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013, which the NRDC explained is enough to power "all the households in New York City twice over."

By the very nature of how a data center operates, high energy usage is to be expected. However, the report goes on to explain that U.S. data centers could have cut energy consumption by as much as 40 percent and still stayed up and running safely. This conservation effort could save U.S. businesses an estimated $3.8 billion in a year. 

The data center manager's dilemma

The high levels of data center energy usage are the result of far more than simply keeping servers online. Computing equipment has a substantial thermal output, which needs to be contained in order to prevent damage to the equipment that might result in downtime, and other more serious hazards to personnel such as fires in the facility.Therefore, cooling components are an integral part of data center infrastructure.

Controlling humidity and dew point is equally important, as too much moisture can cause corrosion, electrical shorts and other issues. ASHRAE recommends maintaining an internal temperature of somewhere between 59 degrees Fahrenheit and 89.6 degrees F, depending on the size of the facility, and keeping relative humidity levels somewhere between 20 and 80 percent. 

The problem is that it takes a lot of energy and effort to keep a data center operating in that environmental sweet spot. Smart equipment decisions can help maximize energy efficient while keeping equipment in the proper environmental safe zones. For example, deploying row-based cooling components in low-density server areas can use less energy than rack-based cooling components, which may be required for higher density racks.

That said, the human body is not equipped with the monitoring and analytics tools needed to make these sort of distinctions in the first place. This is where data center monitoring comes into play. 

DCIM: An elaborate, yet simple solution

DCIM is both panoramic and granular. Environmental sensors and power distribution units that closely monitor electricity usage make it possible for data center managers to procure extraordinarily detailed metrics about energy usage and climate conditions. Analytics then allow data center managers to review this information to get a bigger picture of the environment. 

Power monitoring ensures that no electricity is being wasted, and helps maintenance teams make an informed response if vampire energy is detected. The goal is to use only the amount of electricity that is needed to keep equipment functioning properly.

In response to the heat output created by this equipment, climate monitoring tracks temperatures within the facility. Data center managers are alerted of any unusual temperature fluctuations. Humidity and dew point are also monitored, and similarly maintained at the levels deemed appropriate for equipment, and in accordance with ASHRAE. 

Where DCIM shines is in its ability to consolidate all the information gathered by these monitoring tools into a single computer screen. Data center managers have a lot to stay on top of, but an aggregate solution simplifies the many metrics of a data center environment into a clear picture.

These metrics are not only indicators of the present state of the data center, but also valuable litmus tests that may indicate future trends. Data center management can therefore plan for growth and make well-informed decisions about new equipment configurations. 

In a nutshell, a reliable DCIM solution such as Geist's can help IT staff find balance as they walk the data center tightrope.