By Sanjay Motwani, Regional Director, Raritan APAC
Change is inevitable, more so for the information technology (IT) community wherein new advances in technology are demanding constant changes to the IT network infrastructure. With increased demand to update core applications, migration to the cloud and other Big Data challenges, data center infrastructures have to be agile and change according to business requirements.
Such changes can be split into two broad categories: Moves, additions, and changes (MAC) and Build outs, consolidations and acquisitions (BOCA). MAC are day-to-day IT activities which involve adding and removing end-user personnel, changing end-user locations such as when an employee moves to a different cubicle and upgrades services. On the other hand, BOCA are large-scale projects, which can be very disruptive and require careful planning and implementation to maintain operations. Key considerations are the complexity and risks such data center transformations bring with them and establishing a process that ensures success.
Implementing an effective BOCA project requires progress through five basic stages: Assess, plan, build, stabilize and optimize.
Assess what you have and what you want to accomplish
This stage involves understanding what you have and what you hope to accomplish. The nature of such projects will obviously vary. However, to know whether or not the right objectives and goals have been set, and whether or not they are ultimately achieved, requires establishing current-state performance and utilization baselines. You need a detailed inventory of what you have, and some form of availability and performance monitoring to set the baselines for how well the IT system is currently functioning, what service levels need to be maintained, and where changes and improvements should be made.
Plan end objectives, keep a tab on inventory
Planning a BOCA project requires an accurate inventory of all the IT assets and resources and a picture of the network’s availability and performance. For the planning stage, you need to determine how you will get from the current state to the end-state goals and objectives.
Schedule slips can have adverse effects, including paying penalties, extending contracts with third parties and not being able to utilize the systems and services that were the reasons for the BOCA project in the first place. Secure, remote access can really help to keep a project on schedule by reducing physical travel, promoting collaboration among subject matter experts and by allowing access to the network from anywhere anytime.
The keys to achieving a good BOCA project are:
Simplicity: Proliferation of complex systems makes it more important than ever to have a management tool that reduces the number of touch points needed to monitor and respond to network events.
Visibility: Gain perspective and understanding of performance, utilization, interdependencies and potential risks. Visibility gives you the ability to be proactive, to plan ahead and develop a clear roadmap.
Continuity: Developing robust fault tolerant infrastructure by identifying, prioritizing and managing risks.
Partnership: Align the business and IT managers to a common and well-defined outcome.
Transparency: Milestone reporting to up-stream managers that flags problems before they become disasters.
An IT department won’t make a move until they are confident that real-time availability, security and mean time to repair (MTTR) will not be adversely affected.
Build the network using remote IT infrastructure tools
By minimizing the need to travel and reducing cycle times, remote IT infrastructure tools can play a critical role in successfully implementing a BOCA project in a timely and efficient manner. The build phase may be as simple as adding a few more servers to an existing rack. Often, a physical count of equipment, the linkages between the components, and the necessary support including cabling, power, etc., is left for the end of a project. Gathering such important information this late in the process means the data center managers lack critical information and remote access, both of which can significantly simplify a BOCA build phase and improve efficiency and productivity.
By installing robust out-of-band KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) switches and serial console servers early on, such as when the racks and network connections are laid out, the BOCA team gets the benefits of detailed network information and remote access early in the process when those benefits can have the most significant impact.
An intelligent power distribution unit (PDU) further supports remote access. With remote monitoring you are able to keep tabs on the actual power consumption at the individual outlets in real time. If a server should malfunction to the point that it needs to be rebooted, an intelligent PDU can remotely cycle power.
Stabilise the IT network to ensure efficiency, reliability
Stabilization is key to establishing a reliable IT infrastructure and creating a productive and efficient IT environment. Stabilizing the physical resources involves the proper deployment of power, cooling, cabling, and equipment as well as the management of servers and network devices. Cooling requires careful analysis of the data center as a whole including air flow, vents, air conditioning, the racks and which equipment is in which racks. Proper selection, configuration, and deployment of data center enclosures should also be viewed with a keen eye to any effects on room climate control.
Stabilizing processes and procedures involves both IT and facilities staff implementing best practices and meeting a variety of regulations. To do this efficiently, servers and network devices must be monitored and managed to ensure the ongoing stability of the data center and remote access allows for timely updates and fixes over the course of the BOCA process.
Optimise BOCA deployments to improve productivity
Simplified management of heterogeneous IT infrastructure, including a wide variety of platforms and devices, will increase the productivity and efficiency of IT, staff, letting them spend less time putting out fires and more time adding value to the business. Key tools are remote access and control and availability and performance monitoring. In addition to the efficient use of people, there are issues of efficiently using power, cooling and the available space. Optimizing a BOCA deployment can mean improvements to security such as creating a lights-out data center and implementing policy-based access.
A data center transformation not only supports upgrades of equipment and facilities but it also provides data center managers opportunities to update or revise procedures as well. A BOCA project is the perfect time for IT administrators to take stock of the preparedness of the infrastructure and find ways of improving the productivity and efficiency while maintaining peace of mind. Disruptions to IT operations, especially mission critical ones, can have a devastating effect on the business. Many businesses are saddled with legacy systems that need to be replaced and BOCA offers the right opportunity to do that in a systematic and efficient manner.