What’s in my cabinet?

In the last few articles, I presented what is needed to be able to rely on an up-to-date inventory
for better control of your data center. Whether you want to migrate or introduce one or
multiple servers, many important parameters must be known before even considering a suitable
position for them. It is a complex task since it involves many parties and multiple parameters
such as: function of the asset, its ownership, its electromechanical properties, its relationship
with other devices… all important inputs that will influence your decisions. Previously, it was
concluded that if you own more than 20 cabinets, the famous spreadsheet is no longer suitable
to provide the type of help you need to properly manage your data center.

DCIM, DCNM, MDCM and all the other acronyms which will be used in the future, propose
some form of inventory capabilities. Built-in inventory functions in these solutions are however
designed to respond to a need required by the solution itself within its ecosystem.

When you decide to look for such a solution, it is important to clearly define what you need
to accomplish overall. These enterprise solutions are expensive and their implementation
complex because of the many inputs necessary. You want to maximize your investment and
provide your company with as much value add as possible. A DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure
Management) solution for example, could greatly help you in managing your data center but do
no good for the IT architect. However, it is important to have the support of this same architect
if you want to get the full benefit of the solution. Another factor you have to consider is for the
solution to be well integrated into your process to avoid duplicate input and redundant data
which are always a great source of error.

So, let’s start at the beginning: Data Collection – which is really the gathering of the content of
the cabinets in the data centers. Here, we are trying to establish our baseline. One option is to
go from cabinet to cabinet with a pad of paper and write down the name of the equipment,
model number, position, asset tag, various connections (electrical and data)… Once this painful
operation has been completed, you need to transfer the info into a program or spreadsheet and
complete the picture by inputting more info such as the electromechanical data on the device.
However there are many solutions available to help you increase efficiency and accuracy in this
important step towards having a perfect picture of your data center. Some of these can even
cut back on the time required to complete the data collection phase by more than 35%. This
type of solution (MDCM – Mobile Data Center Management) can also be reused to audit your
data center once a year or on a periodic basis. It will also allow you to find what is supposed to
be vs. what is found. At this point, it becomes an excellent source for all your needs in regard
to corporate accounting necessity, SOX, PCI and other compliance issues, annual maintenance

This type of solution can also help you manage your day to day operation. MDCM systems will
incorporate a handheld device that will allow the operator to take his entire inventory into
the data center with him and update the core data base with his changes while the operation
takes place. The need to post or pre-process a change will be eliminated since the data center
technician will enter the change into his handheld device as he makes the change. Thus the
data base will update when and where the change occurs. The level of data base accuracy and
currency will be greatly enhanced with the use of these mobile devices.

Once you have collected the data, you are now ready to transfer it into your asset management

In the next article, we will analyze the different types of solutions on the market, try to
demystify them and look at the pros & cons. We will then attempt to build a vision that will
enable better manage our data centers.

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