Data Center Automation: 15 Best Practices
August 13, 2021

Automating data center tasks to increase operational efficiency is a primary goal for most data center professionals, but it can be a struggle. Professionals who have used legacy data center management tools like first-generation Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software, Excel, and Visio can attest to the fact that they are time-consuming, difficult to maintain, and inaccurate. They require excessive manual data entry and often leave data siloed, resulting in wasted time and data you can’t trust.

However, second-generation DCIM software has changed everything. The goal of second-generation DCIM is to radically simplify data center management with elegant software. Among the key pillars that help achieve this vision is automation via integration. Modern data center managers need to integrate systems and automate data center operations to save time, save money, and ensure data is always 100% accurate.

Here are 15 best practices that cutting-edge data center managers follow to drive automation with DCIM software to dramatically reduce the complexity of data center management.

  1. Integrate with ServiceNow with a certified connector. Enhance your existing ServiceNow deployment by integrating with a modern DCIM solution that has a certified connector on the official ServiceNow app store. Integrating DCIM software with ServiceNow enables bidirectional communications to automatically create, update, and delete items. This synchronizes data, maintains accurac,y and drives faster changes in the data center resulting in speed to getting services online. It also improves cross-functional teamwork, transparency, and productivity of IT and Data Center Operations staff.
  2. Integrate with BMC, Cherwell, or a homegrown CMDB. A complete DCIM solution will come with a universal CMDB connector that allows you to integrate with popular CMDBs like BMC and Cherwell or even a homegrown database. CMDB integration enables bidirectional communications to automatically create, update, and delete items. Plus, it add rich 3D visualization and business intelligence to your existing asset information. The benefits of CMDB integration include breaking down information silos, increasing data accuracy, improving workflow and productivity, and enhancing collaboration across functional teams.
  3. Integrate with VMware. Enable bidrectional communications to create and update clusters, hosts, and virtual machines. To see just how easy it is, watch the experts at the University of Chicago demo how they set up VMware integration in minutes (at 46:20 in the video).
  4. Leverage a bidirectional restful web service API. Second-generation DCIM works with what you have and comes out of the box with a complete set of fully-documented APIs that allow you to create, read, update, and delete all items, ports, locations, lookup lists, requests and work orders, power and data connections, custom fields, and model library items. For example, MacStadium uses the API to automate back-office processing for orders placed on their website. They successfully eliminated manual data entry and human error without disrupting existing customer experiences or workflows of internal teams.
  5. Automatically forward events to enterprise monitoring systems. Data center alarms can be forwarded to your organization’s company-wide enterprise monitoring solution such as Splunk or CA Spectrum. The forwarded events include all the alarm details needed to efficiently inform centralized monitoring organizations of the event severity, description, location, threshold level of violation, and most recent measured readings.
  6. Webhook audit trail. Get a message stream of all moves, adds, and changes including details like who did what and when, all the way down to the field level.
  7. Automate power capacity planning. Leading DCIM software can automatically calculate and update an accurate power budget number for each make and model instance of a device. The number is based upon the actual measured load of that device in its environment running its applications. This approach is easier, more accurate, and less risky than the traditional method of derating the nameplate value to around 60% to 70%. Using this “Auto Power Budget” feature, Comcast gets 40% more utilization out of their facilities and power sources. With the same feature, eBay reduced the number of new cabinet buildouts for a project by 33%, saving $120,000 in that single project.
  8. Schedule automatic charts and reports. Give your management visibility into your data center with shareable and customizable dashboard charts and reports. Schedule management reports for automatic creation and distribution weekly or at any frequency you desire to drive a culture of data-driven collaboration in your organization.
  9. Leverage an automation rules engine. Create automation rules based upon conditions that you configure. For example, you can set a rule that if a specific field is updated, another field will be automatically updated with specific values based upon the rule you set. This eliminates the need for manual data entry and removes the possibility of human error.
  10. Automatically backup Raritan and Server Technology rack PDU configurations. DCIM software can automatically collect and store each rack PDU device’s configuration file to save you time and manual effort. It's very easy to restore configurations or clone a configuration to many other PDUs.
  11. Get notified when you’re running low on high-value parts and spares. DCIM software increases the granularity of data center asset management. You can centrally manage your parts inventory including hard drives, cards, memory modules, power supplies, patch cables, or even boxes of screws. By setting thresholds on your part counts, you can get automatically notified when you’re running low and need to resupply. For example, Delta Dental uses this feature to automatically know when to order new patch cables and SFPs. The order goes to their purchasing department before they run out of inventory.
  12. Be alerted to potential power issues that can cause downtime. Maintaining uptime is one of the top concerns for all data center professionals. By monitoring and setting thresholds on data from intelligent rack PDUs and other metered infrastructure, you can know your rack, inlet, and circuit breaker loads and three-phase balance. If a threshold is violated, you will be the first to know so that you can resolve the issue before it causes problems.
  13. Know when there is a circuit breaker state change. Similarly, you can set thresholds on circuit breaker state change to receive automatic email notifications upon violations.
  14. Set thresholds on environmental conditions. You can also improve uptime by monitoring environmental sensors like temperature and humidity Setting thresholds on the sensor data allows you to be automatically alerted of warning and critical conditions such as high temperature or humidity. Then, you can quickly act upon the issue to resolve it before services are impacted.
  15. Get email notifications for requests and work orders. DCIM software with a built-in work order management system informs personnel of required actions such as moves, adds, and changes, increasing productivity.

Bringing It All Together

Modern data center managers are realizing the enormous time and money savings to be had by driving automation and integration in their data center operations. Follow these tried-and-true best practices, and you too can dramatically increase efficiency and productivity.

Want to see how Sunbird’s world-leading DCIM software can help you drive automation in your data center? Take a free test drive today.

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