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Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect.
At the same time, as enterprises seek to rationalize their applications and data, centralization and consolidation of data centers has made their management even more critical -- at ever larger scale and density.
So how do enterprise IT operators and planners keep their data centers from spinning out of control despite these new requirements? How can they leverage the best of converged systems and gain increased automation, as well as rapid analysis for improving efficiency?
We’re here to pose such questions to two experts from HP Technology Services, and thereby explore how new integrated management capabilities are providing the means for better and automated data center infrastructure management (DCIM).
Here now to explain how disparate data center resources can be integrated into broader enterprise management capabilities and processes, we’re here with Aaron Carman, HP Worldwide Critical Facilities Strategy Leader. Welcome to BriefingsDirect, Aaron. [Learn more about DCIM.]
Aaron Carman: It's pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Gardner: We’re also here with Steve Wibrew, HP Worldwide IT Management Consulting Strategy and Portfolio Lead. Welcome, Steve.
Steve Wibrew: Hello, and glad to be here. Thank you.
Gardner: Aaron, let me start with you. From a high level, what’s forcing these changes in data center management and planning and operations? What are these big new requirements? Why is it becoming so difficult?
Carman: It's a very interesting question that people are actually trying to deal with. What it comes down to is that in the past, folks were dealing with traditional types of services that were on a traditional type of IT infrastructure.
Standard, monolithic-type data centers were designed one-off. In the past few years, with the emergence of cloud and hybrid service delivery, as well as some of the different solutions around convergence like converged infrastructures, the environment has become much more dynamic and complex.
So, many organizations are trying to grapple with, and deal with, not only the traditional silos that are in place between facilities, IT, and the business, but also deal with how they are going to host and manage hybrid service delivery and what impact that’s going to have on their environment.
It's become much more complex and it's a little bit harder to manage, because there are many, separate types of tools that they use to manage these environments, and it has continued to increase.
Gardner: Steve, do you have anything more to offer in terms of how the function of IT is changing? I suppose that with ITIL v3 and more focus on a service-delivery model, even the goal of IT has changed.
Wibrew: That's very true. We’re seeing a trend in the change and role of IT to the business. Previously IT was a cost center, an overhead to the business, to deliver the required services. Nowadays, IT is very much the business of an organization, and without IT, most organizations simply cease to function. So IT, its availability and performance, is a critical aspect of the success of the business.
Gardner: What about this additional factor of big data and analysis as applied to IT and IT infrastructure. We’re getting reams and reams of data that needs to be used and managed. Is that part of what you’re dealing with as well, the idea that you can be analyzing in real-time what all of your systems are doing and then leverage that?
Making good and intelligent decisions on that is quite a challenge for many organizations. Quite often, we would be saying that people still remain in isolated silo teams without good interaction between the different teams. It's a challenge trying to draw that information together so businesses can make intelligent choices based on analytics of that end-to-end information.
Gardner: Aaron, I’ve heard that word "silo" now a few times, siloed teams, siloed infrastructure, and also siloed management of infrastructure. Are we now talking about perhaps a management of management capabilities? Is that part of your story here now?
Carman: It is. For the most part, most organizations when faced with trying to manage these different areas, facilities IT and service delivery, have come up with their own set of run books, processes, tools, and methodologies for operating their data center.
When you put that onto an organization, it's just an added burden for them to try to get vendors to work with one another and integrate software tools and solutions. What the folks that provide these solutions have started to realize is that there needs to be an interoperability between these tools. There has never really been a single tool that could do that, except for what has just emerged in the past few years, which is DCIM.
HP really believes that DCIM is a foundational, operational tool that will, when properly integrated into an environment, become the backbone for operational data to traverse from many of the different tools that are used to operate the data center, from IT service management (ITSM), to IT infrastructure management, and the critical facilities management tools.
Gardner: I suppose yet another trend that we’re all grappling with these days is the notion of things moving to as-a-service, on-demand, or even as a cloud technology. Is that the case, too, with DCIM, that people are looking to do this as a service? Are we starting to do this across the hybrid model as well?
Carman: Yes. These solution providers are looking toward how they can penetrate the market and provide services to all different sizes of organizations. Many of them are looking to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model to provide DCIM. There has to be a very careful analysis of what type of a licensing model you're going to actually use within your environment to ensure that the type of functionality you're trying to achieve is interoperable with existing management tools.
Gardner: Steve, do you have anything more to offer in terms of where this is going, perhaps over time on that services delivery question? [Learn more about DCIM.]
Wibrew: Today, clients have a huge amount of choice in terms of how they provision and obtain their IT. Obviously, there are the traditional legacy environments and the converged systems and clients operate in their own cloud solutions.
Or maybe they’re even going out to external cloud providers and some interesting dynamics that really do increase the complexity of where they get services from. This needs to be baked into that converged solution around the interoperability and interfacing between multiple systems. So IT is truly a business supporting the organization and providing end-to-end services.
Gardner: Well I can certainly see why IDC recently named 2014 is the year of DCIM. It seems that the timing now is critical. If you let your systems languish in legacy status for too long, you won’t be able to keep up with the new demand. If you don’t create management-of-management capabilities, you won’t be able to cross these boundaries of service delivery and hybrid models and you certainly won’t be able to exploit the analysis change from all the data.
So it seems to me that this is really the time to get on this before you lose ground and/or can’t keep up with the modern requirements. What’s happening right now in terms of HP and how it’s trying to help organizations obtain do some sooner rather than later? Let me start with you, Aaron.
Carman: Most organizations are really struggling to introduce DCIM into their environment, since at this point, it’s really viewed as more as a facilities-type tool. The approach from different DCIM providers varies greatly on the functions and features they provide in their tool. Many organizations are struggling just to understand which DCIM product is best for them and how to incorporate into a long term strategy for operations management.
So the services that we brought to market address that specifically, not only from which DCIM tool will be best for their environment, but how it fits strategically into the direction they want to take from hosting their digital services in the future.
Gardner: Steve, I think we should also be careful not to limit the purview of DCIM. This is not just IT. This does include facilities, hybrid and service delivery model, management capabilities. Maybe you could help us put the proper box around DCIM. How far and why does it go or should we narrow it so that it doesn’t become deluded or confused?
Wibrew: Yeah, that’s a very good question, an important one to address. What we’ve seen is what the analysts have predicted. Now is the time, and we’re going to see huge growth in DCIM solutions over the next few years.
DCIM has really been the domain of the facilities team, and there’s traditionally been quite a lack of understanding of what DCIM is all about within the IT infrastructure management team. If you talk to lot of IT specialists, the awareness of DCIM is still quite limited at the moment. So they certainly need to find out more about it and understand the value that DCIM can bring to IT infrastructure management.
I understand that features and functions do vary, and the extent of what DCIM delivers will vary from one product to another. It’s very good certainly around the facilities space in terms of power, cooling, and knowing what’s out on the data center floor. It’s very good at knowing what’s in the rack and how much power and space has been used within the rack.
It’s very good at cable management, the networks, and for storage and the power cabling. The trend is that DCIM will evolve and grow more into the IT management space as well. So it’s becoming very aware of things like server infrastructure and even down to the virtual infrastructure, as well, getting into those domains.
DCIM will typically have work protectabilities for change in activity management. But DCIM alone is not the end-to-end solution, and we realized the importance of the need to integrate it with the full ITSM solutions and platform management solutions. A major focus, over the past few months, is to make sure that the DCIM solutions do integrate very well with the wider IT service-management solutions to provide that integrated end-to-end holistic management solution across the entire data-center ecosystem.
Gardner: Aaron, when I hear Steve talking about this more general inclusion description of DCIM, it occurs to me that this isn’t something you buy in a box. This is not just a technology or a product that we’re talking about. We’re talking about methodology. We’re talking about consulting, expertise, and tribal knowledge that’s shared. Maybe you could help us better understand not only HP’s approach to this, but how one attains DCIM. What is the process by which one becomes an expert in this? [Learn more about DCIM.]
Carman: With DCIM being a newer solution within the industry, I want to be very careful about calling folks DCIM specialists. We feel that we have a very great knowledge of the solutions out there. They vary so greatly.
It takes a collaborative team of folks within HP, as well as with the client, to truly understand what they’re trying to achieve. You could even pull it down to what types of use cases they’re trying to achieve for the organization, which tool works best and in interoperability and coordination with the other tools and processes they have.
We have a methodology framework called the Converged Management Framework that focuses on four distinct areas for a optimized solution and strategy for starting with business goals and understanding what the true key performance indicators are and what dashboards are required.
It looks at what the metrics are going to be for measuring success and couples that with understanding organizationally who is responsible for what types of services we provide as an ultimate service to our end user. Most of the time, we’re focusing on the facilities in IT organization.
Also, those need to be aligned to the process and workflows for provisioning services to the end users, supported directly by a system’s reference architecture, which is primarily made up of operational management tools and software. All those need to be supported by one another and purposefully designed, so that you can meet and achieve the goals of the business.
When you don’t do that, the time it takes for you to deliver services to your end user lengthens and costs money. When you have separate tools that are not referencing single points of data, then you’re spending a lot of time rationalizing and understanding if you have the accurate data in front of you. All this boils down to not only cost but having a resilient operations, knowing that when you’re looking at a particular device or setup devices, you truly understand what it’s providing end to end to your users.
Gardner: Steve, it seems to me that this is a little bit of a chameleon. People who have a certain type of requirement can look at DCIM, some of the methodologies and framework, and get something unique or tailored.
If someone has real serious energy issues, they’re worried about not being able to supply sufficient energy. So they could approach DCIM from that energy vantage point. If someone is building a new data center, they could bring facilities planning together with other requirements and have that larger holistic view.
Am I reading this right? Is this sort of a chameleon or an adaptive type of affair, and how does that sort of manifest itself in terms of how you deliver the service?
Wibrew: If you think about the possibilities in the management of facilities, the IT infrastructure, right up to services of a business, end-to-end, is very large and very, very complex. We have to break it down into small or more manageable chunks and focus on the key priorities.
So we look at the trans-organization, work with them to identify to them what their most important priorities are in terms of their converged-management solution and their journey.
It’s heavily structured around ITSM and ITIL processes, and we’ve identified some great candidates within ITIL for integration between facilities in IT. It’s really a case of working out the prioritized journey for that particular client. Probably one of the most important integrations would be to have a single view of the truth of operational data. So it would be unified asset information.
CMDBs within a configuration management system might be the very first and important integration between the two, because that’s the foundation for other follow-on services until you know what you’ve got, it’s very difficult to plan, what you need in the future in terms of infrastructure.
Another important integration that is now possible with these converged solutions is the integration of power management in terms of energy consumption between the facilities and the IT infrastructure.
If you think about managing the power consumption of things like efficiency of the data center with PoE, generally speaking, in the past, that would be the domain of the facilities team. The IT infrastructure would simply be hosted in the facility.
The IT teams didn’t really care about how much power was used. But these integrated solutions can be more granular, far more dynamic around energy consumption with much more information being collected, not just at a facility level but within the racks and in the power-distribution units (PDUs), and in the blade chassis, right down to individual service.
We can now know what the energy consumption is. We can now incentivize the IT teams to take responsibility for energy management and energy consumption. This is a great way of actually reducing a client’s carbon foot print and energy consumption within the data center through these integrated solutions.
Gardner: Aaron, I suppose another important point to be clear on is that, like many services within HP Technology Services, this is not just designed for HP products. This is an ecumenical approach to whatever is installed in terms of product facility management capability. I wonder if you could explain a bit more HP’s philosophy when it comes to supporting the entire portfolio. [Learn more about DCIM.]
Carman: HP’s professional services we’re offering in this space are really agnostic to the final solution. We understand that a customer has been running their environment for years and has made investments into a lot of different operational tools over the years.
That’s a part of our analysis and methodology, to come in and understand the environment and what the client is trying to achieve. Then we put together a strategy, a roadmap of different products, that will help them achieve their goals that are interoperable.
We continue to transform them to the next level of abilities or capabilities that they are looking to achieve, especially around how they provision services and help them become, at the end, most likely a cloud-service provider to their end users, where heavy levels of automation are built in, so that they can get digital services to their end users in a much shorter period of time.
Gardner: One of the things I really like in talking about technology is to focus on the way it’s being used, to show rather than just tell. I’m hoping that either of you, Aaron or Steve, have some use cases or examples where this has been put to good use -- DCIM processes, methodologies, the über-holistic approach, and planning right down to the chassis included.
I hope you can not only discuss a little bit about by who and how this is being done, but what they get for it. Are there any data points we can look to that tell us that, when people do this right -- and here are some folks that have done it right -- what they got back for their efforts. Why don’t we start with you, Aaron?
Carman: HP has been offering operational services for years. So this is nothing new to HP, but traditionally, we’ve been providing these services in silos. When we reorganized ourselves just recently and really started to put together the IT-plus-facilities store, it quickly became very apparent that from an operations management perspective, a lot of the services we provide really needed to have a lifecycle approach and be brought together.
So we have a lot of different examples. We’ve rolled out different forms of converged-management consulting to other clients, and there are a lot of different benefits you get from the different tools that are a part of the overall solution.
You can point to DCIM and a lot of the benefits you get from understanding your assets and being able to decommission those more quickly, understanding the power relationship, and then understanding many different elements of tying the IT infrastructure chain to the facilities chain.
In the end, when you look at all these together, it’s going to be different for every client. You have to come in and understand the different components that are going to make up a return on investment (ROI) for the client based upon what they’re willing to do and what they’re trying to achieve.
In the end, we’re providing folks with a means of optimizing how they provision services, which is going to lower their cost structures. Everyone is looking to lower cost, but also increase resiliency, as well as then possibly defer large capital expenditures like expanding data centers. So many of these different outcomes could apply to a customer that engages with converged management.
Gardner: I realize this is fairly new. It was just on Jan. 23 that HP announced some newservices that are converged-management consulting, and that management framework was updated with new technical requirements. You have four new services organized with the management workshop, roadmap, design implementations, and so forth. [Learn more about DCIM.]
So this is fairly new, but Steve Wibrew, is there any instance where you’ve worked with some organization and that some of the really powerful benefits of doing this properly have shown through? Do you have any anecdotes you can recall of an organization that’s done this and maybe some interesting ways that it’s benefited them, maybe unintended consequences?
Wibrew: I certainly can give some real examples. Where I've worked in the past with some major projects for transformation within the data center, we would be deploying large amounts of new infrastructure within the data center.
The starting point is to understand what’s there in the first place. I’ve been engaged with many clients where if you ask them about inventory, what’s in the data center, you get totally different answers from different groups of people within the organization. The IT team wants to put more stuff into the data center. The facilities team says, “No more space. We’re full. We can’t do that.”
I found that when you pull this data together from multiple sources and get a consistent feel of the truth, you can start to plan far more accurately and efficiently. Perhaps the lack of space in the data center is because there may be infrastructure that’s sitting there, powered on, and not being utilized by anybody.
It’s a fact that we’re redundant. I’ve had many situations where, in pulling together a consistent inventory, we can get rid of a lot of redundant equipment, allowing space for major initiatives and expansion projects. So there are some examples of the benefits of consolidated inventory and information.
Gardner: We’re almost out of time, but I just wanted to look towards the future about the requirements and the dynamic nature of workloads and the scale and density of consolidated data centers. I have to imagine that these are only going to become more urgent and more pressing.
So what about that, Aaron, as we look a few years out at big-data requirements, hybrid cloud requirements, infrastructure KPIs for service delivery, energy, and carbon pressures? What’s the outlook in terms of doing this, and should we expect that there will be an ongoing demand, but also ongoing and improving return on investments you make, vis-à-vis these consulting services and DCIM?
Carman: Based upon a lot of the challenges that we outlined earlier in the program, we feel that in order to operate efficiently, this type of a future state operational-tools architecture is going to have to be in place, and DCIM is the only tool poised to become that backbone between the facilities and IT infrastructures.
So more-and-more, with a lot of the challenges of my compute footprint shrinking and having a different requirements that I had in the past, we’re now dealing with a storage or data explosion, where my data center is all filled up with storage files.
As these new demands from the business come down and force organizations onto new types of technology infrastructure platforms they haven’t dealt within the past, it requires them to be much more flexible when they have, in most cases, very inflexible facilities. That’s the strength of DCIM and what it can provide just in that one instance.
But more-and-more, the business is expecting digital services to almost be instant. They want to capitalize on the market at that time. They don't want to wait weeks or months for enterprise IT to provide them with a service to take advantage of a new service offering. So it's forcing folks into operating differently, and that's where converged management is poised to help these customers.
Looking to the future
Gardner: Last word to you, Steve. When you look into your crystal ball and think about how things will be in three to five years, what is it about DCIM rather and some of these services that you think will be most impacting?
Wibrew: I think the trend we're going to see is a far greater adoption of DCIM. It's only deployed in a small number of data centers at the moment. That's going to increase quite dramatically, and this could be a much tighter alignment between how the facilities are run and how the IT infrastructure is operated and supported. It could be far more integrated than it is today.
The roles of IT are going to change, and a lot of the work now is still around design, planning, scripting, and orchestrating. In the future, we're going to see people, almost like a conductor in an orchestra, overseeing the operations within the data center through leading highly automated and optimized processes, which are actually delivered by automated solutions.
Gardner: Very good. I should also point out that I benefited greatly in learning more about DCIM on the HP website. There were videos, white-papers, and blog-posts. So, there’s quite a bit of information for those interested in learning more about DCIM. HP Technology Services website was a great resource for me. [Learn more about DCIM.]
We'll have to leave it there, gentlemen. You’ve been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on improving the management and automation of data centers and facilities. We’ve seen how IT operators and planners can keep their data centers from spinning out of control via exploiting new data-center infrastructure management capabilities.
I want to thank our guests, Aaron Carman, the HP Worldwide Critical Facilities Strategy Leader. Thanks so much, Aaron.
Carman: It's my pleasure. Thank you.
Gardner: And also Steve Wibrew, HP Worldwide IT Management Consulting Strategy and Portfolio Lead. Thanks so much, Steve.
Wibrew: Thank you for listening.
Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks to our audience and come back next time for the next BriefingsDirect podcast discussion.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.
Transcript of a BriefingsDirect discussion on how organizations need to better manage the impact that IT and big data now have on data centers and how Data Center Infrastructure Management helps. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
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