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APC launches data center infrastructure monitoring software

APC's Capacity Manager and Change Manager software tools take live power readings and determine the maximum capacity of your data center. The technologies claim to rival Aperture Vista.

American Power Conversion Corp. (APC) has released a product that it says rivals Aperture Vista as a means of keeping track of data center infrastructure and capacity.

APC's Change Manager and Capacity Manager monitor data center infrastructure items like uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and power distribution units (PDUs) to ensure that when you plug in a new server, you won't blow a circuit breaker. The company claims it can connect to third-party power equipment as well, although it says the information it can get from its own PDUs, for example, is more detailed. The software runs on APC's InfraStruXure Central Server, a rack server that centralizes data center information from various locations, such as power draw and temperature.

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"It's a big issue with clients," said Michael Bell, a former Gartner Inc. analyst. "[Data center managers] are operating with very incomplete data. They can load up a rack and then, all of a sudden, blow up a circuit breaker because they didn't understand that they had a significant load there."

APC's software is similar to a data center infrastructure database (DCIDB), which is similar to a configuration management database (CMDB) but is designed specifically for facility equipment.

In many data centers, the CMDB software focuses on the connection between hardware, software, documentation and personnel. Larger, more complex data centers need something similar for their facilities infrastructure, such as a DCIDB, which helps data center managers track events, such as how much of a load a particular UPS can handle or whether plugging in another server will overdraw supply.

DCIDB software would include every component in the physical layer of the data center, such as UPSs, PDUs, servers and computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units. Each database component would have information on factory specifications, maintenance history and its connections to other components in the facility. The database would also monitor space, power and cooling capacity. With these data points, data center managers could project growth over a period of time, helping them determine when a company might need to build more raised floor, for example, or buy new UPSs. The DCIDB would integrate seamlessly with a CMDB and could also tie into other software -- for example, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) program to help optimize cooling capacity of rack and CRAC unit configurations.

APC's new software doesn't include all these features, but its ability to determine capacity based on actual power readings should help data center managers plan a room's layout so they don't overdraw supply. It may also help in cases where power has maxed out despite racks with empty slots.

"The only other game in town that rivals this is Aperture's product," Bell said.

Aperture Vista can detail equipment in rack and power supplies and has been around about four years, so it has a head start. The company has a resource library with factory specifications for 30,000 facility items. The Aperture Vista Capacity Management software, whose launch was announced in April and made available last month, can also predict power and cooling growth in a data center so that facility managers know when to add capacity.

Soeren Jensen, general manager of enterprise management products at APC, said that Aperture's software is based on nameplates. The nameplate figures, which are attached to equipment and describe how much power it draws, represent the maximum draw. The actual power draw is usually lower, which might lead to the decision to buy a new UPS or expanding a data center before it's necessary.

However, it is possible to set up the Vista software to assume a certain percentage of the maximum power draw on average. And although it might be a somewhat static tool because it's not taking actual power draw readings, Bell said it's still pretty capable. In addition, Aperture just announced that it bought The Advantage Group, whose enterprise product purportedly does live monitoring.

Bell said that for many data center facility managers, the question of how much power capacity the building has left is a big one. It will determine when a data center needs an upgrade, when an entirely new facility needs to be built, or when negotiations with a power utility to get more juice need to start.

"To some extent, Vista has been answering that question," Bell said. "It will tell you theoretically where you have capacity. But you don't know that for a fact. APC's product will tell you exactly what you've got because it's monitoring it."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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