Discover and analyse IT room infrastructure

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Using the IT room migration method populate the IT room data repository with all available infrastructure, application and application relationship, analysis of the shared services, and analysis of the disaster recovery capabilities. An IT room is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g. air conditioning, fire suppression) and various security devices. It can be maintained and monitored by using datacenter infrastructure management tooling. Discovery focuses on a set of key interviews with subject matter experts from within the organization coupled with experienced consultants who know what to ask for and where to look for it.  The interviews generally last an hour and are aimed at understanding dependencies between infrastructure, applications and business requirements.

Datacenter infrastructure management

Datacenter infrastructure management (DCIM) represents any set of tools that help organize and manage the information stored in a datacenter. The energy required to organize and store large amounts of data can be used with greater efficiency if the infrastructure of that data is carefully and appropriately managed. DCIM represents a class of products and services designed to assist the growing global demand for the electronic storage of information, whether that is devising more efficient ways to store and access electronic data or turning the air conditioners of a datacenter on or off as needed to prevent servers from overheating and failing.

Features

DCIM can be used for many purposes. DCIM can support IT room availability and reliability requirements, it can identify and eliminate sources of risk to increase availability of critical IT systems, it can be used to identify interdependencies between facility and IT room infrastructure to alert the facility manager to gaps in system redundancy, and it can assist in modeling the costs structures of building and maintaining the huge accumulation of assets which form the IT room, over long periods of time.

The roster of DCIM suppliers is becoming grouped into a minimum of two buckets, or segments in an attempt to reduce the customer confusion when researching DCIM solutions. The first bucket is the integrated software suites, where a comprehensive set of lifecycle asset management features are brought together and share a common view of the datacenter. Integrated repositories, reporting and connectivity are all expected to exist within these suites. Suites share a common look and feel and leverage all of the underlying asset knowledge where appropriate. A single source of truth exists across the entire suite for any given attribute.

The second group of DCIM suppliers includes all of the remaining 100+ vendors. These vendors enhance the DCIM suites and can exist as stand-alone solutions as well. These solutions are also referred to as ‘specialists’ or ‘DCIM-ready’ components. These include sensor systems, power management solutions, analytics packages, and monitoring. One of more of these enhancement solutions will likely be deployed or coupled with a single selected DCIM suite. There will be additional segmentation as vendors self-align their values to customer needs.

DCIM software is used to benchmark current space, network and power consumption with equipment temperature often using real-time feeds and equipment ratings, then model the effects of ‘green’ initiatives on the datacenters power usage effectiveness and datacenter infrastructure efficiency before committing resources to an implementation.

Evolution of tools

Traditional approaches to resource provisioning and service requests have proven to be ill suited for virtualization and cloud computing. The manual handoffs between technology teams were also highly inefficient and poorly documented. This initially led to poor consumption of system resources and an IT staff that spent a lot of time on activities that provided little business value. In order to efficiently manage IT rooms and cloud computing environments, IT teams need to standardize and automate virtual and physical resource provisioning activities and develop better insight into real-time resource performance and consumption.

Moving with the need of the times, there are efficient software to tackle specific needs of a IT room. The management systems while replacing the manual energy invested, also provides services like auditing, data compiling and records, as well helps in making consist reports to help optimize operations. These specialized services include:

  • IT Asset Management;
  • Hardware Asset Management;
  • Software Asset Management;
  • IT Asses Disposition;
  • Network connectivity Management;
  • Environment Management;
  • Energy Management;
  • Change Management; and
  • Capacity Management.

Datacenter monitoring systems were initially developed to track equipment availability and to manage alarms. While these systems evolved to provide insight into the performance of equipment by capturing real-time data and organizing it into a proprietary user interface, they have lacked the functionality necessary to effectively monitor and make adjustments to interdependent systems across the physical infrastructure to address changing business and technology needs.

More were later developed to connect this equipment and provide a complete view of the facility’s datacenter infrastructure. In addition to enabling comprehensive real-time monitoring, these tools were equipped with modeling and management functionality to facilitate long-term capacity planning; dynamic optimization of critical systems performance and efficiency; and efficient asset utilization.

In response to the rapid growth of business-critical IT applications, server virtualization became a popular method for increasing a datacenters IT application capacity without making additional investments in physical infrastructure. Server virtualization also enabled rapid provisioning cycles, as multiple applications could be supported by a single provisioned server.

Modern datacenters are challenged with disconnects between the facility and IT infrastructure architectures and processes. These challenges have become more critical as virtualization creates a dynamic environment within a static environment, where rapid changes in compute load translate to increased power consumption and heat dispersal. If unanticipated, rapid increases in heat densities can place additional stress on the datacenters physical infrastructure, resulting in a lack of efficiency, as well as an increased risk for overloading and outages. In addition to increasing risks to availability, inefficient allocation of virtualized applications can increase power consumption and concentrate heat densities, causing unanticipated “hot spots” in server racks and areas. These intrinsic risks, as well as the aforementioned drivers, have resulted in an increase in market demand for integrated monitoring and management solutions capable of “bridging the gap between IT and facilities” systems.

IT asset management

IT asset management (ITAM) is the set of business practices that join financial, contractual and inventory functions to support life cycle management and strategic decision making for the IT environment. Assets include all elements of software and hardware that are found in the business environment.

IT asset management is an important part of an organizations strategy. It usually involves gathering detailed hardware and software inventory information which is then used to make decisions about hardware and software purchases and redistribution. IT inventory management helps organizations manage their systems more effectively and saves time and money by avoiding unnecessary asset purchases and promoting the harvesting of existing resources. Organizations that develop and maintain an effective IT asset management program further minimize the incremental risks and related costs of advancing IT portfolio infrastructure projects based on old, incomplete and/or less accurate information.

Hardware Asset Management

Hardware asset management entails the management of the physical components of computers and computer networks, from acquisition through disposal. Common business practices include request and approval process, procurement management, life cycle management, redeployment and disposal management. A key component is capturing the financial information about the hardware life cycle which aids the organization in making business decisions based on meaningful and measurable financial objectives.

Software asset management

Software asset management (SAM) is a business practice that involves managing and optimizing the purchase, deployment, maintenance, utilization, and disposal of software applications within an organization. According to the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), SAM is defined as “…all of the infrastructure and processes necessary for the effective management, control and protection of the software assets throughout all stages of their lifecycle”. Fundamentally intended to be part of an organizations information technology business strategy, the goals of SAM are to reduce IT costs and limit business and legal risk related to the ownership and use of software, while maximizing IT responsiveness and end-user productivity. SAM is particularly important for companies in regard to redistribution of licenses and managing legal risks associated with software ownership and expiration. SAM technologies track license expiration, thus allowing the company to function ethically and within software compliance regulations. This can be important for both eliminating legal costs associated with license agreement violations and as part of a company’s reputation management strategy. Both are important forms of risk management and are critical for the company long-term business strategies.

IT Asset Disposition

When assets need to be removed from the enterprise, they move through various disposition processes. Commonly they are handed over to an IT Asset Disposition vendor to be recycled or destroyed. Assets should be managed properly after going offline to ensure they do not get lost prior to reaching the vendor. The vendor of choice should then have secure procedures for tracking assets during the entire time of their possession. After proper disposal, the vendor provides a certificate of destruction with the serial numbers of assets they destroyed and recycled. The company should then verify the serial numbers on their certificate of destruction with the assets they know they handed over to the vendor. Tracking assets that are offline, prior to disposal, should be approached with the same efficiency and security as when those same assets are online. A good method for choosing a destruction vendor is to find a NAID certified company. They have a corporate responsibility to dispose of e-waste properly to ensure a healthy environment. Look into donation programs in your area.

Process

ITAM business practices are process-driven and matured through iterative and focused improvements. Most successful ITAM programs are invasive to the organization, involving everyone at some level, such as end users, budget managers, IT service departments, and finance.

ITAM generally uses automation, including the use small ‘passive’ RFID tags designed to fit all types of IT assets and smart software designed to track the RFID-tagged asset locations automatically, to manage the discovery of assets, so inventory can be compared to ownership information. Full business management of IT assets requires a repository of multiple types of information about the asset, as well as integration with other systems such as supply chain, help desk, procurement and HR systems and ITSM.

For small and medium-sized businesses, a solution might not have to be so robust as to influence many departments. However, IT assets still need to be tracked for risk management, accurate resource and budget allocation, and accountability of assets whereabouts. A good solution for small businesses will enable them to search for assets they currently own, manage online and offline assets, and plan accurately for the future.

Tasks

  1. Select and implement IT room data repository tool.
  2. Select, implement, configure and run automated discovery tools.
  3. Establish appropriate import routines where required.
  4. Perform gap analysis between data sources and data model and produce plan to resolve.
  5. Create initial standard discovery reports.

Hints and tips

  • A fully functioning IT room data repository is more likely to be a relational database rather than a spreadsheet.
  • A relatively high degree of IT room data repository set-up and development will be required.
  • Identify and engage the necessary SME skills and plan this to end of job.
  • The local IT team will be of great help. Engage their support but beware of overburdening.
  • The local IT team can provide the critical data from hardware and software resources and help format and present the critical data.
  • Remember to discover both source and target data elements.
  • The naming of applications is notoriously inconsistent. Consider using alias names if necessary.
  • Relating the applications to their underlying servers is the key to this activity.
  • Discovery tools may help but will take time to deploy; security sign-offs and time to interpret results. Do not rely 100% on these tools and be prepared to apply brain-power.
  • The various categories of shared services will lead to different mappings and relationships in the IT room data repository. The local IT team should be engaged to support this.
  • Source and target shared services may be different.
  • Disaster Recovery is a very difficult topic in relation to an IT room migration. It needs to remain invoked even when infrastructure and applications are moved in waves. It’s important to understand how Disaster Recovery could be invoked at all stages of a lengthy and phased migration,

Activity output

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