Data Center Physical Infrastructure Operations as a Cloud Service is Here (4 of 4)
Data Center Management: The Value of Serverfarm’s InCommand (Blog 4 of 4)
A Serverfarm blog series with advice and opinion on addressing data center operations management inefficiency.
Data centers which are managed and run like cloud services free workers to perform value added tasks and enable CIOs to focus on digital strategy. Combining software, people and processes delivers flexible, agile and cost-effective data center operations.
Whether you are already in the cloud or planning the journey, if your role involves operational and strategy improvement to a data center environment this four-part blog series provides insights and perspective on how to achieve cloud like operations at the physical infrastructure level.
A data center never stops moving so why should the software used to manage it?
Traditional waterfall software development methods in data center infrastructure management (DCIM) failed to keep pace with changing market needs. This led to a shortfall in the ability to respond to requirements of modern and modernizing facilities.
The notion of a steady state data center that could depend on the six or nine-month software updates was never a reality. The moves, adds and changes that reflect daily data center management meant DCIM functionality was often lagging behind operational realities.
Another issue with the DCIM market was that solutions were sometimes marketed as relatively simple deployments with straightforward processes. In fact, deployment and management within complex environments was far more challenging than many were willing to admit. This fed over expectation and often led to disappointment. Organizations invested in software expecting ease of deployment and rapid ROI but then discovered they were hindered by a lack of processes and change management that was not in place.
Some DCIM success stories have been seen in sectors such as heavily regulated large financial services firms with deep pockets, big infrastructure teams and for whom change management protocols were a compliance necessity.
But within many other data centers, operations management continues to pose significant challenges.
Issues inside the enterprise
With InCommand, Serverfarm focuses on providing a service that manages all the data center physical infrastructure.
It is fair to say facilities management within data centers is ahead of IT in embracing ‘service’ when it comes to letting third parties take an active role in managing the physical infrastructure.
Historically facilities were more singularly controlled and the rise of the commercial data center sector meant that it was over a decade ago when facilities teams began giving up elements of control to colocation providers and others.
Conversely, by their make-up IT teams are a little more fractured and tend to hold management of infrastructure a little tighter. IT organizations have continued to operate in silos such as a storage group, network group, the security process teams, the compute and process team. Each holding on to its special secret sauce. However, the advent of cloud is seeing even IT changing, and giving up some control. More and more IT is letting go of the physical management of data centers and infrastructure in order to focus on the application.
Serverfarm sees this as an inevitable trend. IT groups are gaining the confidence to allow someone else to manage the asset databases, the switching gear to the devices, and deliver ecosystem management of all data center infrastructure as a service. There is a recognition that what they are gaining is the freedom to focus on management of the application. For IT, whether in a cloud or in an owned and operated data center, the goal is application delivery and IT teams increasingly recognize this as their core competency.
Serverfarm’s InCommand is focused on physical infrastructure management which can maintain and utilize the data center to its design optimum (something in which many IT people have very little interest.) In the past any communication to the IT team that pointed out that in a $100m data center investment it would be wise to think about the efficient use of power and cooling, a common answer was: ‘We don’t know how to do that.’
Today, the goal is to keep IT from ever having to visit the data center (except virtually). Serverfarm’s success metric is to take a 30% utilized data center and turn it into a 70-80% utilized data center by focusing on its competency of optimizing the physical infrastructure.
When it comes to tracking asset inventories and understanding the ecosystem of the data center, different teams are at different stages of the journey or have different skills and priorities. For example, explaining the benefits of InCommand to those on the facilities side it is not unusual to find engineers who are very experienced in asset management. Where explaining the same benefits to an IT team which may have more change management experience, the conversation can begin as educational.
Education can appear to suggest a steeper learning curve is needed for IT teams but that is not always the case. IT teams, who often have greater cloud experience are quick to grasp the concept that with InCommand the outcome is the ability to ‘Cloudify the data center,’ that is, to treat the enterprise data center like a cloud.
IT calling: can I have some infrastructure…
IT welcomes and embraces being taught that when a request is submitted to InCommand to supply services – whether directly from an enterprise data center, from a colo rack, or from a cloud, there is no need to think about the design, rack and stack or build out and matching the application to equipment. This capability is within InCommand.
InCommand provides the cost to host by device, rack, segment and room and by data center – all metrics needed for IT to provide showback and chargeback to the business. InCommand provides unparalleled metrics and analysis putting Serverfarm on the leading edge of physical data center operations management. This is fundamental to the concept and capabilities of InCommand when we say: It treats your enterprise data center like your cloud environment…
…as a Service
InCommand is a SAAS solution built using the latest DevOps agile methodologies on open source technologies. Delivered as a service, software updates have a 2 to 4-week release cycle driven by constant innovation and development.
When Serverfarm onboards a customer, it becomes part of the delivery team driving enhancements and servicing the unique environment in areas such as UI and automation. Where the application is enhanced for one customer, the enhancement becomes available to all customers.
There are several trends driving the adoption of data center physical infrastructure management as a service. A high percentage of data centers are struggling with operations management. The number and size of data center operations teams is likely to continue to fall as firms have fewer resources. Instances where IT is willing to ditch facilities management in order to focus on the application is on the rise. The market for physical DC operations as a service will continue to grow.
It is in this context that for both facilities and IT teams in the data center, InCommand, which provides Data Center Management as a Service ensures enterprises are buying an outcome, not a problem.