Today’s data centers offer a tremendous range of services to colocation customers. From blazing fast cross connections to service providers to dynamic edge computing architectures, these facilities have the tools to help innovative companies grow their businesses quickly to reach more customers than ever before.
But while many companies looking for a colo provider focus on the technical capabilities of a data center, they sometimes overlook variables like data center management practices. They do so at their own peril, however, because choosing a facility that adheres to data center management best practices can often result in better performance and cost savings. A well-managed data center distinguishes itself by focusing on three core principles.
A data center is a complex environment of power and cooling distribution, access and security and optimized efficiencies. Maintaining these requirements involved ‘hands on inspections’, performance monitoring and optimizations and alarm management and maintenance procedures and process controls. Adherence to ‘best practice’ procedures, controlled and monitored activity, planned maintenance and detailed Methods of Procedures (MOPs) is the bases for a successful and reliable facility.
Visibility and confirmation of the above requirements and results is the confirmation and validations customers need for the own internal compliance requirements and those of their customers. At vXchnge their award-winning ‘in\site’ platform) provide unprecedented visibility into a data center environment. By monitoring network traffic, power usage, and cooling needs in real-time with DCIM software, facilities can identify trends and opportunities in order to enhance both performance and efficiency. As more data centers incorporate machine learning algorithms into their management best practices, they will find new ways to optimize deployments and anticipate future needs.
With so many colocation customers utilizing complex network solutions like hybrid and multi-clouds facilitated by cross connections, data center personnel need to have a high degree of visibility into the environment to understand the dependencies of these networks. This knowledge allows them to see how making changes in one system might have an impact on other systems throughout the data center.
While data centers are remarkable for all the technological innovations incorporated into their operations, most of them still rely heavily upon human technicians for deploying servers, resolving problems, and overseeing operations. Since hardware and software applications change so quickly, it’s critically important for data center personnel to have a firm grounding in tried and true procedures and processes to minimize errors and avoid confusion.
Data center management best practices should always include clearly established rules for every routine in the facility. What is the policy for migrating customer data? Who needs to be notified when assets are moved on the data floor? What is the first step taken when installing new servers in a cabinet? Without a clear process for these tasks and others like them, a facility will not be able to hold itself accountable to its customers and it will be difficult to determine what went wrong in the event of a problem.
In addition to documenting routine tasks, data centers should have clear protocols in place for dealing with specific situations. If, for instance, a server goes down somewhere on the data floor, technicians should always follow the same steps to resolve the issue. Reinforcing these processes through regular drills helps to prepare data center personnel for any eventuality, ensuring that the facility will be able to address problems promptly and with minimal confusion.
With so much focus on network architecture and virtualized assets, it’s easy to forget that a data center is a physical environment as well as a digital one. Servers take up rack space, cabinets are arranged to disperse heat effectively, and cabling needs to be laid down to create connections between all that computing equipment. Understanding how the physical dynamics of a data center layout is crucial to maximizing network performance.
A poor cabling strategy, for example, could very easily result in air blockages, making it more difficult to cool equipment. Not only will this lead to higher cooling costs over time, but it will also put more strain on the data center’s cooling infrastructure and potentially wear out expensive equipment faster than normal. When it comes to computing equipment, an inefficient rack deployment could leave customers paying for power and cooling they don’t really need.
Data centers can use the insights gained from DCIM software to better manage their physical environment. Most platforms incorporate some form of asset tracking, often in the form of RFID tags. Combined with data drawn from predictive analytics, DCIM software can identify where equipment should be located to maximize power distribution and cooling. This information can also show how making some change to rack inventory, for instance, might affect related systems before anyone even touches a piece of hardware.
Effective data center operations management can be a powerful differentiator between colocation facilities. A colo provider that adheres to data center management best practices will be able to deliver far better performance than a facility that takes a more slapdash approach to managing its infrastructure. By adhering to the three core principles of data center management, facilities can set themselves apart from their competitors.
Ross is a Regional Vice President, Operations at vXchnge and is responsible for managing all 14 data center locations. With more than 30 years of experience, Ross has managed data center construction, engineering, repair and maintenance, leading him to the emerging business of colocation.