Data Center

No More Excuses for Failing to Monitor Remote Wiring Closets and Server Rooms

Remote wiring closets and server rooms can be the bane of an IT pro’s existence. When something goes wrong but the usual network and server management systems can’t point to the culprit, IT is left to try to find the source of the problem with no good tools at their disposal.

Essentially, this amounts to downtime that is basically caused by a lack of good information about those remote locations. It’s a situation that can be fairly easily resolved – by installing a monitoring system for the remote locations. Monitoring and automation software integrated with video surveillance and sensors can reduce the occurrence of human error-related downtime problems in these remote locations, and human error is the cause of more than 70% of reported data center outages, according to the Uptime Institute.

We’ve reported previously on some of the errors (including some horror stories) that can lead to downtime. But a monitoring system can help you avoid them by triggering alarms when thresholds are exceeded for criteria such as temperature, humidity and the open/closed status of rack enclosure doors.

When companies consider monitoring systems for small, remote server and wiring closets, they generally grapple with two issues: Installation and keeping up with changes to the environments.

With respect to installation, customers want to know how complex the process is and how much time it takes to capture and enter all the information they need about the devices to be monitored. How does the system determine which devices are cameras, air conditioners, UPS, heat sensors and the like? And who is responsible for generating all the IP addresses required to communicate with the devices? Considering a company with multiple remote sites may be dealing with hundreds of devices, these are valid concerns.

But over the last few years monitoring software packages have evolved to the point where users can choose to install them on their own or have an outside service provider help out. A service provider can usually have the monitoring system up and running in a day or two, but it’s not all that difficult to go it alone, either.

Monitoring software packages can be delivered either as downloadable code or as a rack-mounted server with preloaded software – an appliance, basically. The system can be installed either remotely or in a central data center, which makes more sense if you’ve got dozens or hundreds of wiring closets to manage. Once the management server is plugged in, the client is downloaded to a laptop so an operator can begin the process of identifying the power, cooling and environmental equipment in the room as well as any human activity that needs to be monitored.

You’ll find most modern UPSs, cooling systems and security cameras come standard with the network interface cards (NIC) required for communication. The operator simply defines an IP address or range of IP addresses that the devices to be monitored should use.

Some systems can then search the network and locate all of the power, cooling, and security devices to be monitored. This auto-discovery capability greatly simplifies the challenge of system installation and start up. Once a device is discovered, the system begins to monitor it – just like that.

You’ll also need to set up policies and thresholds for various devices, for temperature, humidity and the like. Here again, the best systems make this easy by allowing you to group devices by criteria such as location, row within a location and device type. Then you can set up policies and thresholds for the entire group in one shot.

In terms of keeping up with changes to power, cooling, and environmental monitoring equipment, modern monitoring systems also make that a pretty straightforward affair.

Data center managers no longer have to send personnel out to remote locations to install firmware upgrades. Instead, many monitoring systems are capable of performing mass configuration, which allows changes to be sent out over the network from the central location. So the monitoring system actually helps you keep up with changes.

Clearly, some of the old rationale for not installing a monitoring system for remote server and wiring closets no longer hold water. Perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at your own situation.

For more information, check out the Schneider Electric white paper number 103, How Monitoring Systems Reduce Human Error in Distributed Server Rooms and Remote Wiring Closets.


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