The modern data center is far more than a place where companies house their servers. With their extensive power, connectivity, and cooling needs, these facilities require superior oversight for continued operation. Innovations in sensors and analytics may have shifted the nature of data center operations slightly, but direct day-to-day management is still incredibly important to a data center’s performance.
Here are a few basic concepts every data center should encourage their operations personnel to keep in mind as they manage the facility’s infrastructure.
Any effective data center operations process has to begin with visibility and awareness of the facility’s environment. Collecting real-time data that measures Security Access Control, Power, and Environmental factors like temperature and cooling airflow is critical to ensuring that the data center is running under optimal conditions. While many of these factors are controlled by automated systems, they must still be regularly monitored and evaluated periodically. Using data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software, facility personnel can obtain a comprehensive picture of everything that’s taking place within the facility and make finely-tuned adjustments to address any developing issues and enhance efficiencies.
Asset tracking through technology like RFID tags and other data center solutions provides even more visibility into the facility’s environment. When a piece of hardware moves or a server cabinet is accessed, alerts are generated that allow operations personnel to respond to unusual or unauthorized activity. This can be invaluable when it comes to preventing errors (such as a technician moving the wrong piece of equipment) or reconstructing events following a downtime occurrence.
With all the data provided by DCIM technology, data center operations personnel can manage the facility’s infrastructure far more effectively because it allows them to see trends and problems that might otherwise escape the day to day observations. They can also monitor issues pertaining to compliance standards. In many cases, the latest compliance measures are fully integrated into DCIM software updates, ensuring that facilities are always on the cutting edge of regulatory standards.
Practice, as the old saying goes, makes perfect. When it comes to data center operations, practice makes for predictability. While equipment and infrastructure may change along with the threats they face, the way facility personnel handle them doesn’t have to. By following well-defined procedures and standardized processes over time, data centers can impose a measure of predictability in their operations that can reduce risk and ensure that minor issues don’t escalate into bigger problems.
Operations policies need to be implemented across the facility, ensuring that everyone is following the same rules and doing things the same way. This goes for every aspect of data center operations. Every customer migration might be different, for instance, but all of them should follow the same process as a baseline, with any additional needs added on as well.
Having clearly-defined procedures is just the first step. Data center personnel should engage in regular training and practice exercises to constantly evaluate readiness and adherence to operational policies. Colocation customers are counting on data centers to keep their valuable IT assets safe. When it comes to cloud migrations, customers are entrusting data center solutions to keep their data secure. Knowing that the facility’s personnel is prepared for anything and follows rigorous policies when managing customer infrastructure is a major benefit for them.
Knowing what’s going on inside a data center environment is one thing; being able to do something about it is quite another. For all the talk about sophisticated algorithms that can manage power and cooling needs down to the most finely grained detail, programmers have yet to design an algorithm that can replace a malfunctioning PDU or a failed router. Data center remote hands personnel function as extensions of a customer’s own IT team, often providing much faster and more knowledgable service than internal teams that have to manage a variety for responsibilities.
It may sound like a minor thing, but simply having a remote hands technician available to reboot a server within minutes can mean the difference between a minor disruption in service and a business-damaging catastrophe. This is especially important in cases where colocation customers are not located within short driving distance from the facility.
Having an ongoing physical presence on site is also important in terms of security. With all visitors monitored by data center operations or dedicated security personnel, the risk of unauthorized access and other forms of insider threat is greatly reduced. With every aspect of data center solutions being scrutinized every day, problems are less likely to go unnoticed, ensuring that the facility will be operating at peak efficiency more often than not.
While data center operations can involve a wide range of tasks, the basic core principles of effective operations is the mandatory base for all skills and assets to develop from.. By maintaining high visibility into the facility’s infrastructure, reinforcing standard practices to ensure readiness, and promoting a strong, hands-on physical presence, data centers can keep their infrastructure running smoothly to continue delivering positive value to customers.
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.