Importance of Data Center Inventory

In my last article, we spoke about two golden rules to deliver a successful migration or construction datacenter project:

  1. Rule #1: Make sure people understand each other
  2. Rule #2:  Break up your project in smaller phases before redesigning your data center.

In this article, assuming that you have clearly defined your expectations and needs with all parties of the project and that you have also proceeded with the “Cleanup” of your datacenter, we will review one more aspect before moving to the fun part:  The Inventory.

You should have somewhere a list of servers that are supposed to be in your datacenter. Whether it is a spreadsheet or a Visio diagram, it most probably remains a single user tool that is not shareable and lacks accuracy…  Avoid surprises and make sure it is accurate.

I have often seen organizations without accurate information on the content of their datacenter. Here, I am not even talking about an exhaustive list of devices and or attributes.  I am simply referring to the name of the server and its location within the datacenter. In order to start your construction project, you need more than this. And if it is a migration project, you then need a whole other set of information.

The exercise might look easy, but in reality it’s the complete opposite. This is probably the most crucial phase of your project. For example, without proper information, you cannot decide on the server location without taking a risk of disturbing your electrical or mechanical setup. This exercise is a lot more complex than it looks. Some companies specialize in datacenter inventory. Software applications exist to help you in this area as well. Both will help you speed up the process and increase the accuracy of your inventory.

It is important to ask yourself which information is needed before starting your inventory and where to get it!  But first, you need to answer the following: Who will be using it?  It is my experience that if you want your inventory project to be successful, you need to involve all departments, not only the datacenter operation department. An accurate and up-to-date inventory is a powerful decision making tool that adds a lot of value to departments such as purchasing, finance, IT architecture, security… By involving all these departments, the inventory will remain accurate for a long time and everyone involved will benefit. Thus, inventory becomes part of the process and is no longer a project in time that you have to repeat every time you do a migration. We will talk about the process in another article soon. For now, let’s concentrate on the different sources of information we have at our disposal to complete the inventory:

  • Surveillance tools
  • Applications such as Vmware
  • House spreadsheet (purchasing, finance…)
  • Architecture diagrams
  • Network diagrams
  • Business unit information

To complete the picture, you need to perform a physical inventory to tie everything into your datacenter. Every one of these sources will add value to your inventory and will bring you closer to a successful project. We now see that an inventory project is not a simple operation and must not be taken lightly. It is a fundamental part of the larger project: migration or construction of a datacenter.

The following are the important categories of assets that must be taken in consideration:

  • Electromechanically components
  • Servers
  • Network and San components
  • Cables
  • Software applications
  • Business units using the datacenter
  • All links that tie these components together.

Obviously, there is a whole set of sub-categories and or attributes to these assets that should be taken into consideration (ex: # of watts use by a server, its weight, # of U, heat dissipation…). It is not always necessary to gather all this information in the first run, but you should include them in your process when you acquire new devices. It will then be easier on the second run of an inventory project.

In conclusion, the success of a migration or construction project of a datacenter depends on the quality and accuracy of the information on your assets. The operation must be taken very seriously in order to collect the appropriate information for your customers which will provide them value added services.  They then become your ally by adopting the inventory process which will guarantee an accurate inventory at all time.

In the next article, we will take some time to analyze the different functionalities you need to look for in the application you will use to manage your inventory.

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