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One significant trend in data centers is that of remote management. This reduces chances of human error, which is a major cause of downtime in data centers. Plus, remote management also reduces security risks, as fewer people are allowed entry into the data center. Today there are tools that will allow you to manage just about every aspect of a data center remotely, from anywhere in the world over the Internet. So for instance, you'll find tools to monitor and manage the power being supplied to all the data center equipment. There are tools for managing and provisioning servers, tools to manage the network and storage infrastructure like switches, NAS, SAN, etc. Besides these, there are even tools that let you design your data center. A major contributor in many of the remote data center management tools are web 2.0 technologies. In this article, we'll look at some of these tools and how you can use them to manage your data center.

Data Center Design
Tool: Design Intent Tool version 1.2 Having a blue print in hand before actually implementing a plan is always a more efficient approach than doing things directly. So, we will start with a planning tool that helps in creating an actual design of a data center. Design intent not only helps in managing the design of a data center, but it also helps in managing its future expansion and renovation. Using this tool one can document all the necessary information about data center development life cycle like maximum energy consumption, future server types, and key focus areas.

You can download this tool from http://ateam.lbl.gov/DesignIntent/home.html.

Installation of this tool is simple, and requires MS Office as a pre-requisite. The tool's functionality is divided into three steps. First step involves the Owner or the Coordinator, who has to fill up all the information about the goal of the project (data center development in our case) and other project related information like number of people associated with the project, timeline, etc. This is done by filling up 'Owner's Goals & 'Project Info' and 'Team Contact Info' Tabs. In the second step, your design team develops the projects 'Design Intent Document' Tab by editing Design Area, Objectives, Strategies and Metrics. This is the stage where main focus while developing/renovating a data center is elaborated along with strategies to achieve it. Design Intent document is then finalized with input from stakeholders. Once the blueprint or the documentation on the project is ready you can generate reports from this tool for analysis based on the inputs and conditions you provide.

This is simple interface of Design Intent Tool 1.2, one can document data center related design specification in it for future reference. One can also generate reports from this tool

Power Management
Tool:
IBM Active Energy Manager 'GREEN' is the buzzword in the IT industry and data centers today are actively looking at ways of going green. To decrease the energy consumption and plug the power leaks, an efficient and easy to implement energy management mechanism should be in place. Active Energy Manager is a tool that is used to measure, monitor and manage energy consumption built into IBM systems. Non IBM systems can also be managed with PDU+ support making this tool more generic. This tool can be downloaded from http://tinyurl.com/2gghpb. Its installable file is 171 MB and is available for a 60 days trial. We installed it on an IBM Server. Once installed, it shows all supported machines as managed objects. After installation you have to log on to the 'IBM Director Control' to use Active Energy Manager. The front end of this tool can also be accessed over the network. As a security feature login details can be encrypted using SSL.

To use the energy management option one has to assign related task ('Active Energy Manager') to managed objects. To assign a task to the managed device, start by selecting the supported managed object and then click on the last tool in toolbar. You'll get different options for power management available like 25% power cap, maximum power cap, etc. Select an option according to your need and it will generate a report for that machine.

This is the interface of 'IBM Director Console' to add a task drag managed object to 'Tasks' pans or click last icon in toolbar

Besides energy management, IBM Embedded Director Console also contains other features like managing energy capacity, planning, etc. Active Energy Manager helps in better understanding of energy usage that in turn helps in better management of energy and cost related to it.

Physical and Virtual Server Management
Tool: OpenQRM
With virtualization coming into data centers in a big way, it's becoming more difficult to manage a mix of physical and virtual servers. OpenQRM is an Open Source server management software that can easily manage both physical and virtual servers in a data center. It provides automatic failover for servers and dynamically adjusts the amount of allocated servers depending on actual usage. This tool of 115 MB can be downloaded from http: //www. openqrm.org/downloads. html. OpenQRM has a plug-in based architecture, which means more functionality would be added to it in future. With openQRM one can build a booting environment that works for different hardware. Therefore openQRM takes care of hardware dependencies. We booted our machine with openQRN image. To create new virtual environment click on 'New Virtual Environment' and then give a name to it. Select kernel image using 'edit' tab and file system. For provisioning your server, click on 'Provisioning and Policy' tab. Here one can define the number of nodes and amount of maximum load on each node. Once all the configurations are done save this virtual environment.

This is the interface of openQRM to create a new virtual environment. Click on 'New Virtual Envornment' and then choose the kernel image

 

OpenNMS dashboard facilatates you to monitor all the nodes in your datacenter and notifies if any failure occurs

Network and Services Monitoring
Tool: OpenNMS
When it comes to Monitoring your network and groups of devices on it, then one really good Open Source software that comes to mind is OpenNMS. It is a Linux based network resource monitoring software that let's you track the performance of a group of network devices and services on your network such as MySQL, Apache, FTP, SSH, etc. It is capable of SNMP service polling, data collection, notification and event management. Deploying OpenNMS is not an easy job and can take a good amount of time. You can download a copy of the software from www.opennms.org. It can be installed on any system that supports Java and has Tomcat Application server pre-installed. While installing the solution you might get a lot of dependency errors. To avoid those, you can also opt for a ready made OpenNMS virtual appliance. It's available for VMware can be deployed within minutes. Once you've installed it or run the virtual appliance, you can access it from any machine on the network using a web browser. You simply have to type http://: 8080/ opennms/. By default, the username and password are both 'admin'. As you login, you can see the dashboard of OpenNMS which shows you all servers connected to your network and the services running on each. Before you type the URL, state the IP range of your network in the 'discovery-configuration.xml', and then start the Tomcat and OpenNMS services. This tool sends alerts via email to the concerned person and if the issue in not resolved, another email is generated and sent across to a higher authority. For this go to 'Admin' menu, select 'Configuration path' and click on 'New path'. Give a meaningful name for notification and click on 'Edit' button. A new window will appear, click on the 'Address' button and provide the email address where you want to receive the alerts and proceed.

Remote Access
Tools: PHPShell, Putty, App streaming in Longhorn
There are tools like 'Putty' using which you can connect to any machine across the globe that has SSH or Telnet enabled. There is one more interesting tool called 'phpshell', which provide you shell access over a web browser. This helps if SSH is disabled on a system or has been blocked by the firewall. You can also stream an application that is specific to your requirements from the server to your desktop. This application stream can be done using SSH on any Linux Box whereas Windows makes use of Terminal server. If you want to try out this on Windows then you can find this feature in Windows Longhorn and for Linux on any Linux distro. We have done many articles on remote access tools, so we'll not get into how to use them here. Check out the links to those articles given in the box below.

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