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Mission impossible: Data center asset management

AFCOM's Data Center World attendees say said they can't find a good way to inventory and manage hardware or software change in their data centers.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Data center managers are frustrated with the lack of adequate tools to take inventory of everything...

in their data center, from software licenses to a CRAC's inlet temperature.

I just want to be able to map all hardware and software and have control of it.

Dimitri Mundarain,
senior manager, data center operations, Citrix Systems Inc.

Count Dimitri Mundarain as one of them. The senior manager of data center operations at Citrix Systems Inc., Mundarain said he has searched in vain to find what he's looking for.

"It seems so basic," he said. "I just want to be able to map all hardware and software and have control of it. No one has a feasible solution at this point."

In an ideal situation, all the relevant hardware and software information would go into a central data repository. The information would be gathered using an automatic discovery tool, which would search for changes in the environment on a regular basis. All resources would then be able to communicate with one another.

With that data in hand, IT and facilities staff could improve communications. If a company plans to expand a particular application for business purposes, for example, that information could flow to facilities staff, which could automatically receive alerts on the space, power and cooling needs for that expansion.

Seeking in vain for autodiscovery tools

C.J. Veverka, the data center manager for a Midwest hosting provider, said he has yet to find a product that can produce that level of performance. During the AFCOM Data Center World show, he's continued to look to no avail.

Companies are working to get there, but in many cases, the process becomes a piecemeal affair that creates something of a jigsaw puzzle.

For more on AFCOM's Data Center World conference

Data center cabling management: Mind over matter

Notes from AFSCOM Data Center World: Day one

Message to data center managers; Speak up!

Aperture, for example, specializes in mapping data center facility infrastructure. A common criticisms of Aperture was that its maps were static and couldn't be updated automatically. So Aperture bought a company called the Advantage Group, which specialized in producing more up-to-date information. Then Emerson Network Power bought Aperture to tie Aperture software into Emerson's own monitoring software for power and cooling devices. Then Emerson bought Avocent, a server management company. Two years ago, Avocent bought LANDesk, a software management company.

The result has been five companies working under one roof, and it's not clear how good the integration will be. Sean Nicholson, the vice president of product strategy for Aperture, recognizes this problem.

"It has to be thought of as a holistic approach, or it doesn't work," he said.

"Sometimes there are no standards even within the same company," Mundarain said. He cited Hewlett-Packard which, through a series of purchases, now owns a bunch of companies and has to cobble software and hardware management together. According to Mundarain, the integration is subpar.

"People don't know what they have in their data centers," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. Also, check out our blogs: Data Center Facilities Pro, Mainframe Propeller Head, and Server Farming.

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