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  Intercomms Issue 22
Issue 22 Articles

FNT - when transparency matters logoFrom Cable to Service: Why Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is an important discipline for every Service Provider

InterComms talks to Eric Brabänder, Chief Marketing Officer at FNT, about the importance of disciplines like DCIM for Service Providers and why it is essential to use combined management tools that cover both the data center infrastructure and the services provided on top

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Eric Brabänder, Chief Marketing Officer, FNT
Eric Brabänder,
Chief Marketing Officer, FNT

Eric Brabänder, Master of Business and Engineering, is responsible for the marketing and positioning of FNT’s innovative software products. He has 15 years of marketing experience in the software industry. Before joining FNT as Chief Marketing Officer, he worked for IDS Scheer AG and Software AG in different roles in strategic marketing, product marketing and product management. He was responsible for product management and product marketing of the market-leading business process analysis software ARIS.

Q: In our last issue we talked about converging technologies, service delivery models in multi-cloud environments and how FNT enables service providers to standardize their products and services even within heterogeneous environments. Now you state that DCIM is a very important discipline for service providers. What is DCIM and how is FNT involved in the DCIM space?
A: Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is a discipline to manage all data center processes holistically in regards to energy-efficiency and operational excellence. 451 Research defines DCIM as a system that “collects and manages information about a datacenter’s assets, resource use and operational status. This information is then distributed, integrated, analyzed and applied in ways that help managers meet business and service-oriented goals and optimize their datacenter’s performance.” FNT is a worldwide provider of a holistic and integrated DCIM solution which can be understood as the software-based administration of infrastructure components in a data center — from the IT systems and power supply to the climate control and building service. This was also confirmed by a report recently published from 451 Research Group. But FNT’s DCIM solution is not only focusing on the data center and its IT and facility assets but also on the integration of the communication infrastructure between data centers as well as the whole value chain of a data center and service provider.

Q: Why should communication service providers have a look at the topic DCIM?
A: In fact, there’s a whole lot more to DCIM. Contemporary technologies such as cloud computing, software defined networking or the parallel provision of data, voice and video services over a single network connection, known as “triple-play,” require a highly flexible IT infrastructure. To achieve that flexibility, it is essential to use combined management tools that cover both the data center infrastructure and the services provided on top. The days are gone when data centers offered enterprise users only a limited range of IT services. Today, they are becoming service providers in their own right, offering a wide variety of IT and telecommunications services on-demand and in a choice of quality levels. This is especially true of data centers operated by providers of communications and cloud computing services. Service providers in particular are confronted with a number of market developments that can only be negotiated successfully through efficient management of both their IT services and the data center infrastructure by which the services are provided.

Fig.1: Example of a triple-play product definition based on predefined modules.
This definition was created using FNT ServicePlanet
Fig.1: Example of a triple-play product definition based on predefined modules. This definition was created using FNT ServicePlanet

Q: Can you give some more detailed examples for the market developments you mentioned?
A: One market trend can be identified in video data: According to a study by Cisco Systems, the volume of video data as a proportion of all Internet traffic is set to exceed 70 percent worldwide by 2017. This means that not only the networks but also the data centers used by service providers must have the flexibility to stream video services on-demand and in the desired quality. Another example is cloud computing services: According to Cisco, the IP data volume in cloud data centers will reach 6.6 zettabytes worldwide by 2016 (2012: approx. 2 zettabytes). What this projection indicates is that companies and public bodies are moving the majority of their data and applications to public and/or private clouds. On top of that are the services that private users obtain from the various clouds, such as videos and music services. The Cisco study predicts that around 62 percent of workloads will be located in cloud data centers by 2016 and only 38 percent in traditional data centers. This trend is accompanied by mobile data: According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, the volume of data downloaded each month to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, will reach 11.2 exabytes worldwide by 2017. Around 7.4 exabytes of that total will be video. For service providers it all comes together in triple-play services: The provisioning of voice, data and video services over a single network connection is an increasingly important factor. At present, most of these “triple-play” services are provided via DSL or cable. Thanks to mobile broadband technologies such as LTE, LTE Advanced and, ultimately, 5G, they will also be available on mobile devices in the future.

Q: DCIM helps managing the data center infrastructure. How can FNT now support communication service providers to use this technology for a better quality of services and to stay competitive in the market?
A: The flexible provisioning of IT services in areas like triple-play and cloud computing has a significant impact on the way data center resources are managed. It is no longer possible to use traditional DCIM tools to deal with these emerging challenges. There are two distinct aspects to data center management here: management of infrastructure within the data center, including facility management (building services, climate control), power supply and IT equipment, and management of services, ensuring the desired quality of service (QoS) is maintained at all times. The fact that DCIM solutions only focusing on managing data center assets without knowledge of their products delivered are no longer adequate in modern environments is particularly obvious when it comes to triple-play services. In addition to traditional data services, such as Internet and e-mail, triple-play providers deliver telephone services (voice), video-on-demand (VoD), IPTV (television over IP-based networks) and music services. This all means that the secret sauce for a competitive advantage is about the definition of the right products for the end-user, the alignment of the products and services that are delivered by a service provider and finally the efficient management of these resources and the infrastructure that is needed for the delivery.

Fig.2: DCIM solutions like FNT Command are an indispensable tool when it comes to providing data center managers with an overview of all components within the data center and their respective workloads. This information is essential when determining the nature and quality of the IT services that can be provided.
Fig.2: DCIM solutions like FNT Command are an indispensable tool when it comes to providing data center managers with an overview of all components within the data center and their respective workloads. This information is essential when determining the nature and quality of the IT services that can be provided.

Q: How can these products and services be defined and aligned with the underlying infrastructure, especially within in the data center?
A: A service provider needs to align his product definition and the service delivery with the underlying infrastructure of the data center. To give an example from a typical triple-play service: First, the product managers compile a product and service portfolio. This includes all the various services the provider wants to offer. In the case of video services, for example, these could include IPTV and video-on-demand. The IPTV offering could include live streaming services (multicast services: single sender, multiple receivers), while video-on-demand (single sender, single receiver) could be movies or pre-recorded TV shows that users select individually. In addition, these services could be offered in a choice of resolutions (e.g. HD and standard). This service or product portfolio is used as a basis for developing the service architecture. Included in this concept are the functionality and technical demands of the services to be offered (e.g. IPTV or VoD). It also defines the minimum requirements for the IT and network infrastructure via each service that will be provided, e.g., network bandwidth and the type of connections used by consumers (ADSL, VDSL, fiber optics, cable TV). Added to that are other factors that affect the quality of service (QoS). These include, for example, delays in transporting IP packets over a network (“latency”) or channel congestion that results in packet drops. The development and provisioning of standardized service packages can be greatly facilitated by a portfolio and service management tool such as FNT Service Planet. All the information required to define, monitor and manage services and the associated assets throughout the entire lifespan of a service is stored in a portfolio and service management database (SMDB).

Q: How is this linked with the data center and the underlying infrastructure?
A: In a second step, the requirements defined in the product definition and service demands will be projected into the data center. One of the biggest challenges is to ensure that the services offered can be adequately supported in the data center. That applies not only to video-on-demand and triple-play offerings, but also to business applications such as office suites or customer relationship applications that are streamed to users from a cloud. It is important here to consider the capacities in the data centers where the services are provided (e.g. server and storage systems) as well as network hardware. Other aspects are the various infrastructure components such as cooling, power supply and building management. These determine how many server racks can be placed in specific areas of a data center without creating hot spots or bottlenecks in the power supply. This is where DCIM comes into play. A DCIM platform, such as FNT Command, manages all the components on the IT side (i.e. servers, storage systems, switches, and UPS systems). It also covers the infrastructure side (i.e. power supply, climate control, and building services). In addition, the software can capture system loads, power consumption and the status of the climate control systems. Combined, this data enables seamless management of systems, networks and infrastructure. Other important tasks include capacity planning and simulation of changes in the data center. This is useful in the case of data centers where new services are provided on the fly or existing services have to be adapted to changing requirements. In this case, “adapted” means the data center manager has to create new (virtual) server and storage systems and then enable user access—all within a short period of time. In addition, a DCIM solution such as FNT Command provides data center managers with the information they need to optimize rack and server workloads. The management of virtual machines (VMs) in a DCIM solution is fundamental for service management since the majority of IT services are now implemented as virtual machines on data center servers. These services range from classic business applications, such as CRM and virtualized desktops, to video offerings. A DCIM solution should therefore be able to incorporate virtualized server, storage and network resources. It is no longer enough to just cover the physical layer and provide data on the power and data cabling, patch panels, switches, and server and storage hardware. It is equally important to consider the logical network and system layers. DCIM solutions such as FNT Command provide information on servers, their operating systems, IP addresses, VLANs and wireless LANs, as well as storage systems and volumes. A DCIM platform should also enable management of databases, business applications, software licenses and software versions. With a solution such as FNT Command it is even possible to generate orders to service providers and realize workflows from within the DCIM system. This leads to the fact that a DCIM system like FNT Command will be the core of all data center management processes and ensures with its integrated workflow that all assets and changes will be planned and documented within one central DCIM solution. A data center manager can rely on the data of such a central system for all strategic planning purposes or legal aspects, like audits and compliance requests.

Fig.3: Only an infrastructure management system with a central integrated database and a data model that covers all aspects of a service provider can deliver transparency from cable to service.
Fig.3: Only an infrastructure management system with a central integrated database and a data model that covers all aspects of a service provider can deliver transparency from cable to service.

Q: How will all these data be populated into the DCIM software?
A: This is a very important question. When looking for a DCIM tool it is very important to ensure that the system is open to exchange data into all directions and that the system has a flexible but broad data model that allows central gathering and recording of all the necessary information to run a data center efficiently. The DCIM solution based on FNT Command is provided by FNT as a very open architecture based on well-defined and visible API and easy access to the entire database. But FNT already delivers many standard adapters for a bunch of systems that help to fill the repository. There is connectivity to Auto-Discovery Systems (like Infosim), to CfD Systems (like Future Facilities 6SigmaDC), to IP Management Systems, Telephone Systems, Monitoring Systems and Virtualization Systems. Beside this, FNT also delivers an integrated staging area that helps to transport and synchronize all the data needed. To offer an open database is a key strategy for FNT because we are a pure software vendor. This means we are not restricted to any data center hardware and we often find heterogeneous customer environments. If the DCIM software is not open to integrate every asset that has to be managed, it will not fulfill its purpose. Another important aspect is to measure the live data as a basis for the optimization of your energy-efficiency. One of the essential functions of a DCIM platform is to monitor devices at the system level. Solutions like FNT Command Data Center Management Integrator (powered by Intel® (DCM)) collects real-time data, such as power consumption, CPU temperature and server system temperature. This data can be used to find potential energy savings. As a part of the FNT Command DCIM platform, the integrated FNT DCM powered by Intel® delivers exactly these aspects of the server infrastructure in the data center. This includes producing workload diagrams and forecasting future utilization and power requirements.

Q: This means that a DCIM System is not only for managing data center assets but rather an integrated solution for data center processes. Will a service provider be prepared for the increasing business requirements when deploying a DCIM system?
A: DCIM information is essential in order for data center managers to have both a realistic and holistic view of IT system workloads within the data center, as well as power consumption and cooling requirements. But that‘s not all: a DCIM solution provides information on the respective workloads of all physical and virtualized server and storage systems when providing a particular service, plus the secondary costs (power, cooling) incurred. On the one hand, this makes it possible to calculate the cost of providing a particular IT service. On the other, this information is absolutely essential for service providers who want to automate the provisioning of their IT services. Doing so would not be possible without a full range of core information, e.g. IT and infrastructure components in the data center, as well as network connection parameters. But a modern DCIM tool is not merely a simple facility monitoring instrument. It needs to be able to support emerging developments affecting the data center, such as cloud computing, virtualization and SDN, and this from the service management or customer’s end-product perspective. The approach and the comprehensive data model used by FNT Command and FNT Service Planet enable the mapping of current processes and business models while also being capable of handling future requirements, thus providing a high-performance, future-proof solution for data center management. 451 Research has already anticipated this process and enhanced its DCIM model towards DCSM - data center service management tools – and this is exactly what FNT will provide to its customer base.

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