A. Workflow is the critical component of DCIM that must exist for data center efficiency to be significantly improved.
Workflow can be viewed as the sequence of tasks that ensures all changes are made effectively, consistently and with a high degree of accuracy, with full documentation. The new advanced workflow engine found in Nlyte 8 aligns individual tasks with the resources that are required to perform those tasks and most importantly, continuously assesses the amount of time required for each task as well as the amount of time available by the available resources. Through the process of actively managing change using well designed workflows, all assets within the data center will always be the proper assets, when their value is highest to the organization. Workflow also enables the costs associated with change to be reduced, by streamlining operations like tech refresh and remediation. Only the Nlyte solution offers this level of granular workflow and the off-the-shelf connectors to external common ticketing change management systems, like BMC Remedy and HP Service Desk. Through the use of active workflows, the maximum value of infrastructure management will be realized, and all operational costs will be reduced, including energy.
A. “SFP” stands for “Small Formfactor Plugin” and is used to describe the mechanism to allow the type of physical media to be user-defined at time of device installation.
Modern enterprise-class devices such as blade chassis, servers and switches commonly have these physical media ports and today the choices of plugin media types include copper and fiber. Most importantly, on devices with multiple network ports, each SFP port can be defined individually to allow any combination of media to be used on a port by port basis. Nlyte fully supports SFP media choice across all devices that include these interfaces.
A. All changes made to the data center model are tracked and logged, showing who made the change, when it was made, as well as the old and the new values.
Nlyte maintains an Audit Log for every asset record. Every asset has its own unique Audit Log record. The Audit Log allows a user to look back in time and determine what changes were made to the asset, when they were made and who made them. The Nlyte Audit Log records the attribute name of every data field that was changed along with the original and new values. The operation type (i.e. insert, update, delete), the date the change was made and who made it.
A. Real-Time data collection is important to understand the specific operational parameters of the data center at any specific point in time.
It is important to note that In the context of DCIM, real-time typically refers to minutes rather than seconds or less. Data Centers are highly dynamic, but energy resources tend to change relatively slowly in actual production use. Hence, a combination of polling and event trapping are typically used depending on the specific item being monitored. A door sensor for instance likely is monitored using an asynchronous event Trap. A temperature or power strip is usually polled every few minutes. Nlyte currently supports the inclusion of Real-Time data collection through a number of out of the box mechanisms; 1) Nlyte Integrator, a purpose built general purpose collector which can be deployed in any quantity and in any location based upon the dispersal of devices to be polled. 2) Intel DCM support, a fast growing collection technology that can be used to augment Nlyte’s own native collection, in cases where a wide-range of devices are already deployed throughout the data center and Intel’s library of existing device profiles is important, 3) Web services NgaugeAPI interface where aggregation appliances from other vendors are already in place and collecting data, which is desired to be populated with the Nlyte suite.
A. Yes. Nlyte’s DCIM Suite offering includes our Integrator technology with purpose-built profiles for all of the most common rack based PDUs in the data center.
Dozens of the most popular PDUs have been included in our profile library, whether they be strip-level of outlet-level intelligently monitored PDUs. This is not to be confused with claims by some vendors of universal SNMP support as the catch-all for PDU integration. While our Integrator can also be configured to collect metrics from any network-connected devices as well, it is these specific device profiles that speed deployment. A full listing of these out of the box profiles is available by request. In addition Nlyte offers the optional Intel DCM technology for even more device-specific profiles when the diversity of equipment used throughout your IT structure is significant.
A. Absolutely, out-of-the box. DCIM without ITSM and BMS integration is short-sighted.
Nlyte offers the industry’s most complete integration with these ITSM solutions, by providing full bi-directional support for their change management, discovery and CMDB structures. Our potential customers can rest assured that integration with ITSM offerings is a commonplace deliverable for Nlyte which can be demonstrated upon request. Demonstrable integration is one of Nlyte’s key differentiators. Additionally we have integrated with dozens of third party systems including Building Management, service desk and ticketing, CMDBs and any number of sensors and monitoring applications.
A. Nlyte is one of the few truly out-of-the box DCIM suite solutions. The software is a well-behaved server based application which is accessed via any modern web browser, and it is created using a robust Enterprise Architecture for scale and resiliency.
As an out of the box offering, Nlyte can be deployed to support any number of locations, across any user population, and integrated with most modern ITSM and other IT management frameworks and CMDBs already in place. Nlyte also includes one of the industry’s largest libraries of modern IT devices as well as a wide-range of standard templates for reports and dashboards. As there are multiple organizations involved in the success of DCIM, each of their respective needs will need to be qualified and built into the project schedule. As a starting point, once the vendor selection for Nlyte has completed, a skilled user can install the server portion on a suitably configured Windows Server and then begin accessing it within days via any standard web-browser. Our customers then begin to import their existing asset and connectivity electronic data and begin to define the required user-specific reporting and dashboards which will be needed (depending on data center scale, available electronic asset inventory information, etc.). Training and integrations with other common IT management frameworks can begin immediately thereafter and are typically complete with a few weeks. Nlyte is not a professional services project, it is a standard offerings that can be deployed out of the box.
A. Yes specifically, HP’s new Gen8 servers are included in Nlyte’s catalog.
Nlyte pro-actively adds all of the major data center vendor’s new offerings to our library of devices. Nlyte’s materials catalog is updated multiple times each month and includes all of our combined customers’ active IT device requests. The library currently holds more than 8000 modern IT devices and grows by hundreds each month. It is important to remember that the total number of devices in a DCIM library is not as important as the percentage of modern data center devices which are there. This is significant as most IT devices are retired within 3 or 4 years, so it is only the modern devices that need to exist to facilitate the rapid deployment of Nlyte in your data centers.
Additionally, as devices sometimes arrive on your site before our library is updated, Nlyte includes the industry’s most comprehensive tools to enable the rapid creation of unique devices quickly and accurately by the user themselves. The image, weight, dimensions and power requirements are all defined and a new device becomes active. The user can then request these devices from Nlyte and once completed, will make a choice to keep their own authored device object, or flag it to be replaced by Nlyte’s official library updated object when it becomes available.
A. Referring to US Patent 7,765,286, Nlyte invented the means to intelligently place proposed new assets into their optimal data center locations based upon the convergence of other available resources in the data center.
By looking at space, power, connectivity, cooling, business organization or any user-defined parameter, the Nlyte system can identify the most optimal location for each new device at the time of installation. The results are an optimized data center that continues to support incremental change and in doing so remains optimized. This patented technology is available for license throughout the DCIM industry and Nlyte welcomes 3rd parties to inquire about licensing this patented technology for inclusion in their own DCIM software offerings.
A. DCIM directly translates to Data Center Infrastructure Management, and has been defined by Gartner as “The integration of information technology and facility management disciplines to centralize monitoring, management and intelligent capacity planning of a data center’s critical systems.”
Additionally, DCIM is achieved through the implementation of specialized software, hardware and sensors. DCIM will enable a common, real-time monitoring and management platform for all independent systems across IT and facilities and must manage workflows across all systems.
While the description is mostly a tactical definition, the strategic portion is found in the last few words regarding “workflows”. The spirit of DCIM when viewed as part of a fundamental shift in operational business practices is based on a DCIM solution’s ability to modify behavior. Strategic implementations of DCIM document and enforce streamlined behavior. These deployments allow materials to be moved quickly into and out of service, and also to continuously assess the value of assets relative to their capital and operational costs. DCIM maximizes the ongoing value of assets, up to and including the data center itself.
“DCIM” has been a broad category since its inception in the 2008 timeframe with nearly a hundred providers self-declaring their solutions as part of the DCIM category. Recently, these providers have begun to be segmented into two sub-categories; DCIM Suites and DCIM Specialists. DCIM Suites are providers of comprehensive software that visually manages the lifecycles of assets and provides a comprehensive view of data center operations as viewed from the physical layer. Today there are less than TEN DCIM Suite vendors (for example Nlyte Software is the original DCIM Suite vendor and now delivering it’s 8th generation of DCIM Suite today). The DCIM Specialists category includes all of the supportive vendors that make the DCIM Suites more intelligent, more interactive, more instrumented and more in control. This Specialist category includes dozens of vendors who supply everything from intelligent power and environment monitoring to intrusion detection systems.
A. All assets require space, power, cooling and connectivity. Each of these precious resources has real costs associated with their delivery to each device.
Take for example SPACE. A modern Tier-3 data center will cost about $1500 per square foot to build and each rack within that data center may consume 25 square feet of floor-space. With a typical 25 devices installed in each rack, each Rack-Unit of space costs $1500 or more! Similar discussions exist for the power and cooling. Given these expensive resources, it is critically important to deploy assets in a manner as to not strand any given resource. Simply put, having available power on one side of the data center, but available rack space on the other side of the data center effectively strands both expensive resources. Stranded resources are those resources that have cost but go to waste when they cannot be consumed. It is when these resources converge that devices can be optimally deployed, effectively eliminating the concept of stranded resources. Nlyte’s patented auto-allocation technology (refer to US Patent 7,765,286) eliminates this resource mismatching by assuring that each new asset is placed in the data center model in the most resource available location.
A. The short answer is NO. DCIM came of age about the same time as some of the initial energy related efficiency benchmarks were introduced (such as PUE) so the two ideas have become coupled for many people.
This is a well-intentioned but artificial coupling. While energy savings may be a very real part of the benefits realized by many customers, perhaps even more fiscally impactful is the process, risk and capacity management opportunity. Streamlining operations, reducing errors, minimizing risk associated with outages, supporting technology refresh cycles, identifying stranded resources and simply managing all of the assets in a data center in context yields dramatic savings which may in fact exceed the savings attributed to energy conservation associated with DCIM.
DCIM is about applying discipline to the challenge of building and maintaining a single system (the data center) with thousands and thousands of sub-assemblies (servers, switches, storage, etc). Knowing where each is, its unique footprint and impact, its resource consumption, its useful life and warranty periods, etc. Enabling this business management is where Nlyte has been innovating for our customers every day. Nlyte’s DCIM suite offering demonstrates that the biggest opportunity is seen when DCIM is deployed across domains, and used as a strategic fiscal planning tool.
A. Workflow is the critical component of DCIM that must exist for data center efficiency to be significantly improved.
Workflow can be viewed as the set of processes and the tasks that make up those processes to assure all changes are made effectively, consistently and with a high degree of accuracy, with full documentation. The management of workflows aligns individual tasks with the resources that are required to perform those tasks and most importantly, continuously assessing the amount of time required for each task as well as the amount of time available by the resources. Through the process of actively managing change using well designed workflows, all assets within the data center will always be the proper assets, when their value is highest to the organization, and through this design-based approach, energy will be conserved to the minimum amount required. Devices simply won’t exist unless they are needed by design.
A. There is no specific callout in the DCIM definition for hardware versus software. In general, a DCIM Suite is an enterprise-class software suite.
In the earlier days of DCIM this type of software may have been delivered as an appliance, but customers became critical of this approach as they expressed the idea that well-behaved software solutions must be able to take advantage of all of the infrastructure and expertise which exists within their modern IT structure. Enterprise class software when properly designed can then take advantage of an organization’s scale and backup capabilities already in place, they can be deployed in a wide variety of configurations and upon any type of hardware that the end-user desires.
DCIM Specialists however are typically found as a combination of hardware and software. Power and Environment monitoring solutions for example are usually delivered as hardware appliances with software interfaces. These solutions have a singular focus on gathering metric data and presenting it to the end-user, and in more mature environments delivering this same data to DCIM Suites to enable their wider view across domains.
Nlyte’s DCIM Suite is a well-behaved Enterprise application and as such can be deployed using the best practices with deploying any other mission-critical piece of software.
A. Directly! When DCIM Suites are deployed as a strategic solution, they tend to be mission-critical extensions of the ITSM frameworks already in place.
Most IT organizations have adopted Asset and Service management solutions for years and in many cases have quite extensive solutions in place today. ITSM and ITAM solutions focus on the delivery of services. These ITSM and ITAM solutions however have traditionally been limited to logical views of the assets, without any context of the capacity or costs associated with the physical structures themselves. An asset merely existed on the financial ‘books’, but was not characterized on its long-term ability or cost to do work. Its impact on other devices was rarely studied, and the overall costs to bring each device into service quickly and then subsequently removed from service were all but ignored. The consumption of resources and the balancing of these available and limited resources across the entire data center were handled manually if at all.
ITSM focuses on the logical existence of processing, and assumes that the structure underneath exists as a fixed asset. ITSM has little if any concept of the actual on-going operational cost. DCIM ties the business attributes of the physical layer structure to the delivery of services. DCIM is the perfect complement to ITSM and Nlyte has been delivering out of the box connectors to the most common ITSM platforms from BMC, HP, VMware and Intel for years.
A. Many people think their data centers are indeed static, but with depreciation and leasing schedules of 3 years or so, approximately one-third of all of the equipment you see each day as you walk through the data center is going change each year if fiscal discipline exists.
So for a data center with 300 racks of 25 devices each, that yields 2500 changes per year or 100 changes PER BUSINESS DAY! Your data center is likely far from static. DCIM suites are a disruptive business management suite that facilitates this change in a planned and predictable fashion. Nlyte’s DCIM suite offers this management of add/move/change lifecycles of data center equipment. Nlyte’s DCIM suite is the business management solution for change in the data center.
A. No. Building Management Systems and other Facilities type systems are great instrumentation or element managers that form the core of building management.
They include the ability to move mechanical and electrical resources, as demand requires. These systems typically include a great deal of instrumentation of these systems, and it is THIS information that can be fed directly into a DCIM suite offering, like that from Nlyte. Nlyte’s solution understands power and cooling and has been designed from the ground up to reflect this IT and Facilities information in the proper context. In most cases, Building Management Systems will remain in place, and these systems will become a supplier of metric data to DCIM Suite solutions.
A. While DCIM and PUE seemed to have emerged at the same point in time (circa 2008), they are in fact very different and independent.
Many organizations looking for the business process re-engineering possible with DCIM Suites find themselves distracted by discussions of “PUE” and spend a great deal of time too narrowly focused on monitoring power or temperatures. Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is just one measure of the overall facilities-level efficiency in running a data center. That said, PUE only focuses on the energy overhead required to do work in the data center. While an interesting metric on its own, it’s only a tiny part of the big opportunity today. Most modern data center professionals are taking a more holistic look at efficiency and looking for DCIM to help them change the very core of HOW they operate, how they place assets in service, how they retire those devices, the amount of power, cooling and space each takes, managing service and warranty costs and quantifying the amount of work which can be performed by any given device over time relative to newer technologies. DCIM Suite solutions offer new ways of quantifying costs (or opportunity costs) like never available previously. While Nlyte has been delivering metrics such as PUE and Carbon Footprint for years, the biggest opportunity found when using Nlyte’s DCIM Suite is to better understand the costs to delivery services.
A. Thirty years ago there were few vendors in your data center, and these vendors enforced a significant amount of discipline across their installations. It was their gear and they had a precise plan and operations picture for each and every site.
Every change was planned and documented to assure the smooth operation of processing services.
Over time and with the advent of the inexpensive x86 chipsets and open networking and storage standards, a huge number of vendors appeared in the data center. This multitude of vendors created an environment where the integration of vendors was paramount, and the support for each component was left to each vendor. Little over responsibility existed to oversee all of it in the context of everything else. This resulted with a fully operational system which was poorly documented, difficult to maintain and quite a bit of chaos.
The DCIM suite is a relatively new idea and was proposed by a handful of innovative vendors to address this chaos in an attempt to restore the pristine discipline once practiced, but across a multiple of vendors. The term was coined circa 2008, and the vendors who provide these DCIM suite solutions attempt to capture the collective knowledge which resides in a litany of manual and electronic forms, as well as a few key individuals heads, sometimes referred to as ‘tribal knowledge’. This knowledge includes where various devices are installed, how they are connected and where supporting resources are available. DCIM suites maintain the integrity of this data center model to assure the each add, move or change is reflected in the model itself, thereby maintaining comprehensive accuracy which is critical for planning and remediation purposes.
Typically costing tens of millions of dollars, a data center is likely the company’s largest single asset. As the economy became more stressed, CIO/CFO teams began looking at the detailed ways in which the data center operates. Clearly the efficiency of operations and instilling the discipline to adhere to technology refresh cycles, along with the resulting energy conservation became immediately obvious. Accordingly, the DCIM suite has become quite popular, and a huge number of projects have been funded and initiated already. Nlyte has been defining this DCIM suite marketplace for years and continues to innovate this segment for our hundreds of customers worldwide. Now is the time to look forward, rather than clinging to previous ways. Your peers and competitors are doing so TODAY.
A. DCIM Suite solutions enable cross-domain decision making. These suites enable a much wider view of all aspects of running a data center, and then work in conjunction with existing systems to optimize the costs to operate a data center over long periods of time.
Many people initially think of DCIM as a set of energy-related solutions, but in fact energy management is only one of the many aspects of DCIM. Management of the lifecycle of the assets themselves is another strategic opportunity, enabling assets to be brought into service quickly as they are needed, and then removed from service when their useful economically viable lifespan has expired. DCIM Suites bring together asset and infrastructure details so that more informed decisions can be made. DCIM Suites reduce risk associated with human error which in turn reduces unplanned downtime.
A common fallacy, DCIM Suites do not actually have to provide a classic single pane of glass, but instead allow for more informed business decisions to be made across a wider range of knowledge available across multiple domains. Systems working together is the actual goal, not the presentation of all data on a single screen.
A. It is important to understand that there are many stakeholders of the data center, including the IT, Facilities, Finance and Corporate Responsibility organizations. Each of these stakeholders has a specific set(s) of needs and look to DCIM to satisfy one or more of these.
An integrated DCIM Suite must be able to:
- Provide the critical linkage between existing ITSM frameworks and the wealth of detail associated with the physical aspects of the data center
- Model and articulate the data center structure to reveal the costs to own and operate the entire structure, or any portion of it.
- Create a spatially aware operational model of all assets in a data center, relative to a given coordinate system, including connectivity (power and data).
- Collect data about various assets from a wide variety of sources and then organize this related data in a fashion to allow it to be analyzed for the purposes of accounting, risk management and capacity planning.
- Manipulate the data center asset model manually AND through programmatic workflows associated with Add/Move/Change processes, enabling streamlined operations and increased accuracy (which reduces risk and cost).
- Visualize any modeled asset and its associated resources or space, power and cooling for the purpose of compliance, impact analysis and audit.
- Eliminate stranded resources to assure that the operation of the data center is consuming resources in an optimal fashion, reducing historic tendencies to overbuild and overprovision, etc.
A. Today, there is no programmatic way to establish asset physical location, like there is using networking protocol auto-discovery in the IT domain. Tools which listen to the network and determine logical structures are commonplace.
For DCIM projects, a great deal of information usually exists in a variety of spreadsheets and other proprietary formats, as well in many cases CMDBs or other technology. Assets will have different aspects described in different formats. The asset detail itself may exist in an ERP or Financials platform. The network connectivity may be in an IT spreadsheet. Virtual server information may be in VMware, and power chain detail may exist in a facilities maintained listing. When viewed from the aspect of the asset, everything can be determined; it simply takes a number of components to make-up the whole view.
Mature DCIM Suite offerings can directly import or synchronize these data sources to allow a comprehensive understanding about a data center’s assets.
A. This is a critical factor to consider when implementing a DCIM Suite. The DCIM Suite should be compatible with the processes already in place, or the processes which will be in place after operational streamlining.
A. This is tightly connected to the needs put forward by your stakeholders, but at a minimum, your chosen DCIM vendor should be able to supply a library of pre-defined reports and dashboards which address the various needs of your IT, Facilities, Finance and Executive teams.
While some DCIM Suite offerings have taken a swiss-army knife approach to allow the end-user to define their own reporting needs, the most adopted DCIM Suites go much further and include their own reports and dashboards intended as a starting point. This provides immediate value to the DCIM Suite while at the same time allows customization if desired. Now it its 8th generation, Nlyte has created a wealth of audience specific dashboards and reports which help you realize value immediately. Nlyte was founded by data center operators and we understand what our clients need the first day that the DCIM Suite is installed. As DCIM Suite adopters always discover, editing an existing vendor-supplied dashboard or report is immeasurably easier than starting from a blank sheet of paper.
A. With equipment depreciation and leasing schedules commonly seen at 3-4 years, one quarter or more of all of your assets within the data center should be changing every year.
These old assets are inefficient and costly and should be retired, with newer higher performance and more cost-effective assets replacing them. It simply makes sense from a financial, reliability, capacity, density and overall business standpoint.
All of this new equipment must be placed on the data center floor. It is at this point in time when a careful study of available resources should be conducted to assure that each device is deployed using a set of rules that optimize the device’s placement relative to the convergence of available resources. Nlyte invented the technology to do so (which is covered by US Patent 7,765,286) and includes this capability today. The use of this technology assures that available resources do not become stranded.
A. Deployment timeframes may vary, but an estimate of the entire project to specify, deploy, customize, train and begin to use DCIM in production is typically 2-3 quarters.
The first quarter deals with identifying and capturing stakeholder needs and vendor selection, the second quarter deals with installation and integrations, and the third quarter focused on user interaction, training and customization. Some integrated suites are faster to deploy than others based primarily on the extent of the vendor’s libraries of content, the ability to customize workflows and reports, their library of connectors to other ITSM frameworks already in use and their ability to import existing data center asset detail. The more out of the box the vendor’s solution is, the faster DCIM will begin to deliver value. Nlyte currently supplies thousands and thousands of devices in our material catalog, and dozens and dozens of reports and dashboards intended for the data center operator. Nlyte offers comprehensive connector support to many of the industry’s ITSM frameworks including those from BMC and HP, VMware and Intel.
A. Real-Time monitoring is a great start down this journey but only provides the instrumentation layer to gather metrics from hardware devices and hence is usually referred to as a DCIM Specialist application, rather than a DCIM Suite.
DCIM Specialist applications like this provide the raw visibility into power or environmental sensors, and in some cases higher level metrics. Real-Time monitoring for the data center is a great first step in the desire for added business management of the data center. The next step is the connection of real-time monitoring to a DCIM Suite offering, one that manages the ongoing lifecycle of assets and projects, like that from Nlyte. Nlyte’s offering includes the ability to incorporate real-time data into its data center model, thereby offering real-time server, virtualization or power chain analysis, resource management and capacity planning, etc. Combining the Nlyte DCIM suite with one or more DCIM specialist sensor applications provides for a highly leveraged investment. It is this longer term and deeper view management which becomes the biggest opportunity for the modern data center, enforcing new levels of discipline and allows best practices to be refined, transported and repeated.