Over the past couple of years, data center infrastructure management (DCIM) vendors have done a better job of delivering features that help reduce the complexity of the integration process.
When it comes to evaluating DCIM solutions, there are several capabilities to consider, but one of the most important to look for is mobility.
Why is mobility so critical to infrastructure management? Mobility is a key feature that goes a long way in easing deployment, enabling auditing and maintaining accuracy as the data center and the DCIM system evolves.
Let’s take a closer look.
The ability to implement new equipment and components into the DCIM system from the field via a mobile handheld barcode scanner eases deployment and significantly reduces the possibility of human error. It also helps prevent equipment from inadvertently being excluded from the DCIM system—if staff loses trust in the accuracy of the DCIM records and has to spend valuable time validating the data, or if lack of entries ultimately prevents the DCIM system from generating accurate reports and forecasting future scenarios, what is really the point of investing in DCIM in the first place?
Many servers and switches come labeled with barcodes that contain specific information about each piece of equipment that can be used as identifiers for inputting information into the DCIM system. DCIM solutions that support mobile barcode scanners provide a means to gather and input that information from the field and in real time, avoiding the need for manual entry that can be subjected to delays and errors.
For example, when a new server is deployed in the data center, there can be as many as four teams involved—the technician responsible for installing and connecting the server, the server team that installs the software and operating system, the networking team that defines the server’s VLAN and routing schemes and the SAN team responsible for ensuring that the server is properly configured for storage and backup.
With the ability to field scan the barcodes on the server and on its related connectivity (i.e., patch cords, patch panels, switch ports, PDUs, etc.), and then immediately synchronize that information to the DCIM database, not only does the equipment more easily get inputted into the system, but everyone involved in getting that server up and running can simply check the DCIM system for status.
The alternative would be to rely on the technician to manually write down the information (hopefully accurately) and input that information (hopefully sooner than later) into the DCIM system running on a desktop somewhere. If changes to the data center are not recorded as they are made, it is likely that either the update will be made late, made inaccurately or not made at all.
The ability to scan barcodes on equipment and related connectivity in the field also improves the overall day-to-day operations of a data center. Whether its accounting doing their yearly audit of equipment, the data center team checking the accuracy of an installation or a technician following a change order, mobility provides access to all the records when reviewing the infrastructure, troubleshooting a problem or making changes. Records stuck back on a desktop are useless.
For example, with barcode scanning, staff can more easily find a particular piece of equipment, verify its existence or check to make sure it was installed in the correct location and connected to the right port. Data center managers can define and plan out where equipment will be installed and connected by entering change order information into the DCIM system. Technicians can then scan all of the equipment out on the data center floor and access the information to see exactly what needs to be installed and connected where.
When considering mobility as a DCIM feature, make sure that any scanners have the ability to interface and synchronize with the DCIM system from anywhere in the world via Wi-Fi or a data connection. Look also for web-based applications that can be installed on portable devices and tablets to provide access to the DCIM server for information review and light change usage in the field. These platforms should be intuitive with the same look and feel of the full-system interface, albeit at a more simplistic level.
Thankfully, Belden includes barcodes on Traceable patch cords and offers additional barcodes for identification of any piece of equipment.
If you’re interested in knowing more about managing IT infrastructure and improving your ROI, explore our cost reduction resources!
Mike Salvador is a 28-year industry veteran, living the challenge of operating efficient data centers, optimizing the performance of network devices and delivering highly available, highly agile, low-risk data centers. Mike served as Belden’s technical solutions manager from 2012 to 2015.