The autumn harvest feast that we now know as Thanksgiving began in 1621, when Plymouth colonists invited members of the Wampanoag tribe to a meal of lobster, seal and swan. It’s interesting to note that despite the absence of email and social media, several Wampanoag who lived many hours away still managed to receive word of the inaugural holiday, arriving in good cheer and bearing freshly slaughtered venison to share with their newfound friends. Also noteworthy, because the Pilgrims’ supply of sugar had dwindled by the fall, the festive occasion did not feature any dessert.

You heard right: No pumpkin, sweet potato or pecan pie. And no Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn with which to connect with others, and build a social or professional network. These were challenging times with real hardships, people.

thanksgiving turkey dcim management thinkstock photos purestock
Relax - your data center can take care of itself – Thinkstock / Purestock

Saving time and saving the day

To celebrate Thanksgiving, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on all for which data center managers can be thankful. To begin, consider the technological advances and automation that have recently taken place within the data center, enabling operators to dispense with their Stanley tape measures and spreadsheets for capacity planning and forecasting, which every month heretofore usurped more than 40 percent of their precious time.

Today, 72 percent of data center managers deploy data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools to provide analytics for capacity planning and to monitor cooling efficiency. Those that access these tools are able to quantify the cost of outages to their business, compared to only 14 percent of those that do not use DCIM at all. When Intel commissioned Redshift Research to query 200 data center managers in facilities across the US and the UK, we also found that data center operators who could quantify the average cost per outage calculated that figure at nearly $29,000.

Moreover, let’s rejoice that 21 percent of the data centers using DCIM for capacity planning and forecasting report that they could recover from an outage within two hours, compared to only 11 percent of those without the tools.

Need more reasons to give thanks?

Cutting costs and carbon

Let’s consider data center electricity consumption, which according to the National Resources Defense Council is projected to increase to approximately 140 billion kWh per year in the US by 2020. That’s the equivalent output of 50 power plants, costing American businesses $13 billion.Fortunately, for IT and data center administrators, there exists a viable solution to achieve improved Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and reduce costs associated with cooling and power while mitigating a facility’s carbon footprint.

DCIM, because it converges IT and building facilities functions to provide engineers and administrators with a holistic view of a data center’s performance, ensures that energy, equipment and floor space are used as efficiently as possible. In large data centers, where electricity comprises a large portion of the cost of operation, the transparencies these software platforms provide into power and thermal management have a positive impact on an organization’s balance sheet.

Data center managers can sleep better, now they have finally convinced the executive suite that incremental, upfront costs help mitigate a potential outage, and they can re-provision resources with just a few clicks 

With DCIM, runaway energy consumption can be minimzed with a combination of micro-level controls for individual servers, power distribution units (PDUs), air-flow controllers and cooling units, as well as macro-level controls and policies for racks of servers and entire data centers. These software and technology products can be deployed in less than a week, require a short learning curve, feature intuitive dashboards that recognize imbalances in cooling, and can identify underutilized “zombie” servers. Provided with real-time analytics, data center operators benefit from early detection of thermal spikes and can prepare for unexpected surges in usage by mitigating workloads, well beyond anything that could be forecasted. 

Consider the recent Delta Airlines data center outage, believed to be caused by an undetected thermal spike that led to a fire, or the frustrating downtime that Pokémon Go fanatics experienced. ”Our servers are humbled by your incredible response. We are working to resolve the issue. Please try again soon!” is an error message that is touching its humility, but might have been avoided if real-time analytics software were deployed in advance of the product launch.

Okay, perhaps we’ll place these scenarios in the grateful-for-lessons-learned bucket. 

Buy-in from the C-Suite

One overarching instance of gratitude data center managers can point to is the C-suite’s recognition of the role DCIM solutions play in responding effectively to the loss of power and/or cooling as an important part of their disaster recovery and business continuity strategies. In the planning stage, DCIM tools can determine the power required for, and the heat generated by, all individual applications. What-if analyses can then be performed to assess the possible trade-offs, such as keeping more applications available but at lower service levels. DCIM solutions also minimize risk during normal operations by taking constant and accurate measurements of server inlet temperatures, and adjusting the cooling accordingly. 

Yes, data center managers have finally convinced the executive suite that incremental, upfront costs have made mitigating a potential outage a lot easier. Hence, with the proper disaster recovery solutions in place, data center mangers can sleep better knowing that they can re-provision resources and assets with just a few clicks and within seconds.

So, reach for seconds and ignore warnings of the impending food coma. Data center managers, give thanks. And by all means, do enjoy dessert.