Ever increasing demand placed on data centre resources, combined with rising operational cost, means that efforts to achieve greater efficiency are no longer optional. Increased server density, high levels of virtualization and the need to support an app hungry, mobile business community continue to put new pressure on data centre environments. Interestingly, the primary barrier to operational improvement hails from an unlikely source — from the user organization’s seeming inability to coordinate the disparate agendas of IT and facilities management. With singular focus on sourcing adequate compute capacity, the IT manager typically remains blissfully unaware of the facilities operator’s requirement to manage power, cooling and other facilities systems, to say nothing of the power bill. In many organizations, a third element has reared its head in the so called "shadow IT" — or the growing tendency on the part of line of business managers to source cloud services — which often involves sourcing separate security, access or integration services from the local IT and data centre group. This lack of coordination in many cases has an unhappy result — lost opportunity for data centre optimization.
The communications lacunae between IT and facilities, its impact on operational issues, and the means to address this institutional barrier are gaining recognition as a critical concern in many data centre circles. Solutions to the problem have taken both institutional and technology form, ranging from counsel to "involve the CFO," who has overall financial responsibility for IT and power costs, in discussions on data centre refresh, to implement Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solutions to better coordinate compute supply and demand. These are sound suggestions; however, given competing demands for the CFO’s attention, the plethora of technology solutions now available in the marketplace (80-90) and the inherent complexity of DCIM software, implementation may be another kettle of fish. HP is looking to change this situation, and recently announced a new DCIM consulting service aimed at helping customer organizations achieve better operational efficiency, capacity planning and intelligence sharing across IT infrastructure, data center facilities and IT service management.
The new service is part of HP Technology Services Consulting, the branch of Technology Services responsible for solution strategy, vision, design and integration, and resides within the server and data centre service line. HP acquisition in of EYP Mission Critical Facilities Inc. back in 2007 provided this group with a mix of skills to manage its dual responsibility for IT infrastructure and facilities, which HP has augmented in the new Converged Management Services program through delivery partnerships with DCIM players including Emerson Network Power, Schneider Electric, Nlyte Software and Siemens. According to Chris Coggrave, worldwide director, IT infrastructure services, HP Technology Services Consulting, "this is one part of our overall strategy towards convergence. What we have here is a form of convergence where IT and facilities are coming together to be managed as a whole, but not only this, a linkage with IT service management as well." Covering planning, design, integration and implementation of end-to-end data centre infrastructure management solutions, the new service program consists of a workshop to formulate strategy, a roadmap to assess current capability and define projects for future, a design service that creates an integrated framework utilizing HP’s Converged Management Framework and an implementation service: Coggrave noted "what we’re able to do is take a holistic approach that allows the customer to evolve their solutions." While HP would lead customer conversations involving deployment of new IT with HP converged infrastructure products as good integration candidates where possible, Coggrave added that in DCIM consulting, the group is looking to take a broader view of convergence through work in heterogeneous environments — taking an open approach as the best guarantee of customer (and HP) success.
The importance of "providing a single view of the truth between the IT and the facilities teams" is a lesson that Steve Wilbrew, strategy and portfolio lead, data centre consulting, HP Technology Services, has absorbed through years of customer engagement. In addition to building connections to partners’ facilities solutions, Wilbrew’s group has also focused in the new offering on integration with IT infrastructure products, such as HP’s OneView management platform, with an eye to delivering integrated configuration and asset discovery and management, and with ITSM solutions to better support ITIL change management and workflow processes.
The level of integration that may be achieved will vary with individual customer circumstances. While more integration across subsystems may offer the customer greater ability to fine tune resource control (some solutions boast integration to the level of VM management), this degree of management may not be needed in all cases. That said, the HP team has worked "behind the scenes" on the interoperability of third-party DCIM solutions and HP ITSM software solutions to enable integrated discovery, asset management, configuration and event management. "There’s a whole raft of integrations that we do as a consulting activity, but we want to have a number that are out of the box which are proved and tested and ready to go as we engage with our clients," Wilbrew explained. The starting point would be accurate configuration management, though custom integrations could cover a range of heterogeneous vendor systems and environments as customers define their needs through the roadmap service.
According to Wilbrew, one of the outcomes HP is looking to drive is better utilization of data centre real estate: "many customers are running their data centres at 60-70% capacity, but it’s often difficult to put more equipment in because the racks are in the wrong place, or they haven’t got the right power or cooling. Better integration of IT and facilities around utilization of space and capacity planning will reduce the need for clients to extend their data centres or bring in new data centre capacity."
Another benefit would be extending efficiency metrics and measurement (such as PUE) that have been prevalent in facilities to IT infrastructure: "with integrated power management, in particular, we can move some of the responsibility for managing energy consumption away from the facilities team and towards the IT team," Wilbrew added. Since IT equipment is the consumer of power and cooling, an integrated view that links these can help IT to focus on reducing energy consumption, and thereby generate additional cost savings while addressing the organization’s green or CO2 emissions agenda. Coggrave described six basic use cases for integrated DCIM as: managing capacity constraints; managing power, space and cooling; improving data centre availability; lowering operating costs; the supply of detailed financial information; and managing carbon footprint.
A good share of HP’s new DCIM consulting has to do with process rather than product. As Wilbrew explained, before any tools or technology are introduced, the HP team will work to align IT and facilities organizations through analysis of roles and responsibilities, and through study of workflows: "this is not really around a product set, it’s around a methodology or framework, based on ITIL processes." The next step is to drill down into study of customer management systems — which are typically many — to develop strategy around what the client would like to monitor and manage going forward. According to Coggrave, this exercise is crucial: "It doesn’t just come down to the technology. It’s often the softer issues that will trip you up in terms of the organization, the stakeholders and the communication." With professional distance and formalized procedures developed through long term experience in data centre transformation, HP is positioning to manage this process through yet another form of integration — the Converged Management Framework, which links the technology, processes, organization structure, financial models and existing systems.