Data centre management: The battle for control

If data centre networks are becoming more important, why are networking pros losing their say in the battle for data centre management?

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Data centre networks are more important than ever, but in the battle for control over data centre management, network managers have lost their voice. Now they must regain a stronger decision-making role by showing how their technology can enhance the enterprise’s overall business strategy.

Currently, facilities management (FM) teams and other IT organisation factions (namely storage and server teams) each believe they should have the upper hand in data centre decision making -- and they have different perspectives.

“Facilities tend to look only at the building, power and cooling, and don't really give a rat’s bottom about the IT equipment inside. The network manager or IT director has the opposite problem -- the kit is everything and the building is just the shell it all goes in,” said Clive Longbottom, principal analyst at Quocirca.

“If [facilities managers] say that no more power can be delivered or that there is not enough cooling, then who can argue? The pure IT players believe that the world revolves around them -- after all, the servers and storage hardware is what is keeping the business alive these days, isn’t it?”

Meanwhile, the modern network has the reputation for being commoditised.

“Everyone tends to see the network as ‘plumbing.’ The fact that without the network everything else collapses is neither here nor there,” Longbottom said.

Making the case for the data centre network

The first thing networking teams and overall IT organisations must do is prove what a central role they have in delivering energy efficiency and other savings to the enterprise.

All the main areas of responsibility, such as regulation compliance, cost management, resource optimisation and energy efficiency can fall within the remit of the network manager.

All of those factors boil down to performance while reducing power, argues Damian Milkins, CEO of ControlCircle, a data centre networks solution provider. Cloud computing will alter these factors dramatically, and the network manager will have his work cut out in staying on top of this entity as the complexity multiplies.

Network managers specifically have lots of influence on sustainability policies, as these policies largely involve software or network automation, said Joe Polastre, co-founder and CTO of Sentilla, an enterprise energy management solution provider.

As a result, network managers “can be both commercially aware and technically savvy, a great asset for any business which is growing," Polastre said.

Data centre network compromise: Shared information systems

In the meantime, IT and FM must reach a compromise to better serve the overall business strategy. They can do this best by using shared information systems, such as nlyte, Romonet or Aperture.

Of course, even within these systems there is disagreement. FM executives lean toward using nlyte and Aperture, while network managers believe in tools like Tivoli, BMC or CA that give them pure systems management.

Either way, using combined systems and workload and data centre management tools enables network managers to understand the impact of any changes on the facility while the FM team can use these "what if?" scenarios to plan more effectively.

These tools force FM and IT to make joint technology and facilities decisions that serve the organisation’s business strategy.

“The business states what the desired end goal is, and IT and FM work together to come up with a range of different possibilities that meet the various aspects of the business' own risk profile, whether that means cost reduction, risk reduction or increased business value,” Longbottom said.

-- Nick Booth is an independent industry analyst. He started working in IT, networking and telecoms in the days when even the visionaries couldn’t see the Year 2000 coming.

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