Manually managed infrastructure data typically has a 10 % error rate (Source: Watson & Fulton) and 20-40 % of ports in a network are forgotten over time (Source: Frost & Sullivan). Mapping and management takes up a great deal of staff time, introduces unnecessary costs and hinders inventory consolidation. According to Gartner, intelligent data center infrastructure management can cut operational costs by 20-30%.
In an increasingly converging environment, monitoring and managing the physical layer requires constant attention. Data centers require ongoing, precise and efficient asset management. The average data center surface area is currently between 1,000 and 2,500 m2, often with thousands of network ports. Manual cable tracking is no longer a viable option. Yet all too many network managers still carry out inventory and management of physical infrastructure with Excel sheets – or even paper, pencil and post-its – a recipe for disaster. Developing realistic expansion plans and carrying out risk analyses are impossible, let alone complying with legislation and best practices governing data security and availability. Making infrastructural changes on the basis of incorrect, out-of-date and unreliable documentation is like walking a tightrope without a safety net.
Is DCIM different – or better – than AIM?
DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) solutions are prevalent on the market, but the end-user benefits aren’t always clear. DCIM -integrates management of physical infrastructure, energy, risk, facilities and systems. It allows the user to visualize, analyze, manage, and optimize all the elements that make up a modern data center and the relations between them. It can optimize physical infrastructure performance, efficiency and value of and help keep the data center aligned with current needs.
In recent years, many vendors have tried to cram countless functionalities – from power management to resource planning and CFD – into DCIM systems. However, often, they’ve simply ended up failing to deliver outstanding performance on any individual aspect. I’ve seen a variety of DCIM suites being rolled out, which intended to provide solutions in every area a data center manager might be able to think of. But often, vast sums of money were spent, while only a fraction of all available functionalities were used in the data center.
All about AIM
AIM is a specialized solution for tracing and monitoring all changes to a physical network, including switches, servers and patch panels. AIM systems gather data from RFID-based port sensors and provide real-time information about the cabling infrastructure, including asset management, planned and unplanned changes and alarms. These systems improve operational efficiency and facilitate ongoing management of the passive infrastructure. AIM systems offer functions for mapping, managing, analyzing and planning cabling and network cabinets. The integrated hardware and software system automatically detects when cords are inserted or removed and documents the cabling infrastructure, including connected equipment. This enables ongoing, granular management of infrastructure as well as data exchange with DCIM, Building Management Systems (BMS), ITSM, asset lifecycle and security management systems and other platforms. Everything can be monitored and administrated from a common software tool.
The infrastructure is represented in its entirety, in a consistent database. This offers precise, real-time information on the current state and future requirements of the data center. Having such a ‘single source of truth’ brings benefits in a number of specific areas. Administration of cabling infrastructure and connected devices is always up to date. Furthermore, this approach provides a basis for efficient facilities and IT management processes and systems, as well as other networked management processes and systems such as intelligent building systems and business information systems. Constant asset tracking and asset management in combination with event notifications and alerts assist with physical network security.
AIM enables optimization of business processes from an IT infrastructure perspective. Since the entire infrastructure is represented in a consistent database in an AIM system, inquiries into resources such as free ports in network cabinets ducting capacity, or cabinet space can be answered quickly and easily. Other immediate advantages include improved capacity utilization of existing infrastructure and simple and exact planning of changes and expansions. AIMs also offer planning tool capabilities to simulate the future expansion of networks, which helps IT managers better prepare the bill of materials required for implementing the project.
Furthermore, these solutions vastly improve the efficiency of operation and administration and reduce mean-time-to-repair by 30 to 50 percent. AIM solutions can reduce incident resolution time, thereby providing significant savings potential in terms of both IT resources and reducing lost business output. There is no doubt that a contemporary approach to managing structured cabling is more important than ever. Network cabling has long been overlooked, even though it is a critical component of modern networks. It is key to boosting performance and reliability as well as enabling innovations. Realizing the benefits of AIM and investing in the right solutions won’t only ensure not only the future readiness of the network but will also help organizations maximize current cabling investments.
What’s best for your data center?
In many cases, DCIM is exactly what’s needed – but you do have to be sure that you’ll be using enough features to warrant such an investment.You need to ask yourself whether you have a real business case for monitoring everything across your infrastructure, 24/7/365. Does the potential benefit outweigh the investment and the time and effort required to implement such a solution? For many – large – networks the answer will definitely be ‘yes’. For others, however, it will be ‘no’. In many other cases, AIM is the ideal solution.
Companies should first list the business requirements they wish to meet though implementing AIM, including infrastructure considerations, environment and growth plans. The choice of technology and system is very important, as this could either introduce limitations or facilitate options for expansion. System configurations need to be carried out wisely, aided by template-based modeling with an intuitive user interface. Open architecture systems are recommended for easy integration with third party systems. Cost and complexity of implementing AIM over an existing infrastructure may pose a challenge to many organizations since this entails revamping designs, replacing the investments on cabling solutions, down time issues and business continuity. Companies should therefore look for solutions that take this into account at the time of design. Some leading vendors have ensured that their solutions are easily retrofittable on ‘non-intelligent’ networks.