Securing the datacenter bottomline against lockdowns and economic uncertainties

Datacenter operators must adapt to having fewer staff on site, without increasing risk of extended downtime and threatening the bottomline

Soma Tah
New Update

India’s datacenter market has been rapidly expanding, but remote management and maintenance capabilities have not always kept pace with growth. With the government extending the nationwide lockdown and with social distancing measures in place, datacenter operators must adapt to having fewer staff on site, without increasing risk of extended downtime and threatening the bottomline.


Their “essential business” designation under government rules notwithstanding, commercial and enterprise datacenters are struggling on many fronts. For example, network requirements have surged and traffic patterns changed remarkably to support a suddenly remote workforce. The government is collaborating with telecom operators to address congestion and outages, but there is a strong possibility of localized issues, such reduced internet speeds, as the lockdown and isolation efforts continue.

Datacenter hardware presents another set of potential problems. Operators must sustain performance of their complex, hybrid environments with increased reliance on VPN and remote-access tools and systems. When faults occur, field engineering assistance may be delayed, and the overloaded logistics infrastructure may complicate spare parts access and replacement hardware deliveries.

The combination of challenges is enough to make IT pros wish for the remotely manageable, self-healing datacenters the trade press has promised are on their way, where artificial intelligence will control the facility and optimize the IT stack, and robotics will take over physical repairs humans handle today. Although immediate implementation of such a “lights out” datacenter is not possible, enterprises and datacenter providers have options for improving their ability manage networks and hardware assets from a distance.


Upgrade Network Tools

In this changing environment, organizations can benefit from enhanced network analytics solutions capable of discovering network assets, monitoring performance and availability, and remotely implementing optimization measures—not only within their network but to cloud services as well.

The more intuitive the tools, the better, so network administrators gain a high-level view of network health and can drill down to the component level to solve problems. With such applications installed, especially ones with mobile platforms included, network management teams needn’t be sitting in the Network Operations Center to quickly identify where a problem is and keep critical connections resilient.


Gain Asset Transparency

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) may not be the best option right now for supporting datacenter environments with various brands of server, storage, and networking equipment installed. That’s because the OEMs will typically maintain only their own technologies, and their proprietary monitoring tools generally function only for their own products.

Combining numerous OEMs results in challenging levels of monitoring complexity, which multivendor solutions can alleviate. There are “single pane of glass” systems available to replace multiple OEM dashboards to simplify and improve administrators’ view of data center assets. This can help increase effectiveness and combat alert fatigue while reducing management overhead, an essential consideration when staffing resources are stretched.


Improve Triage and Ticketing

Recent advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence have resulted in automated support capabilities, which take standard datacenter monitoring to a new level and facilitate remote troubleshooting.

Such systems come to “know” what normal is for the environment and detect issues as soon as performance veers from the baseline, indicating a fault is about to occur. Automated triage can then determine the root cause, order the necessary spare parts, and deliver a detailed trouble ticket for technician response—increasing first-time fix success and thus avoiding the difficulties associated with multiple site visits when transportation and access are limited.


Supplement Staffing

Before COVID-19 struck, the datacenter industry was already facing a large talent gap, which left many datacenters short staffed and lacking key expertise. Now when illness and quarantines could compromise teams at any point, engaging outside resources should be undertaken in a proactive manner.

Third party maintenance (TPM) providers, in particular, can supplement in-house resources and supply the “feet on the ground” to respond quickly and prevent downtime. Adoption of TPM has been slower in India than in other datacenter-intensive regions, but premium global providers have gained a strong foothold in country. Companies with powerful mobile apps for managing trouble tickets, overseeing SLAs, producing reports, and performing other functions will be easier to integrate with an IT workforce compelled to stay at home.


Increase Hardware Lifespan

Slashing expenditures may be necessary to survive the possibly severe economic consequences of the current lockdown and the long-range global slowdown many experts predict will follow. This tips the balance again toward TPM, as these companies will typically support datacenter hardware for a fraction of the contract price charged by the OEMs and also enable datacenters to extend hardware lifespan.

It may appear contradictory to depend on older equipment at a time when reliability and “hands off” data center management are critical. TPM providers, however, help eliminate the risk. They will back equipment beyond end of support life (EOSL), empowering datacenter managers to utilize existing, stable systems for as long as required to meet budgetary constraints.


Implement Rapidly

Few datacenter managers could have seen the present crisis coming, and it has left many operations scrambling to implement ad hoc solutions. Fortunately, the options outlined herein can all be deployed rapidly—and at a safe social distance, via self-installation platforms, etc.—to mitigate impacts of the lockdown and position a data center for the uncertain months ahead.

The article is authored by Ian Shearer, MD, APAC, Park Place Technologies

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