Data Center ArchitectureData Center Operations

Virtual KVM; from Marginal Gains to Mainstream Improvements in the Data Center

As a 25-year long fan, I’m happy that my colleagues in the UK are at last able to join in with conversations about pro cycling. Of course, in the rest of Europe and the US, we’ve all appreciated the sport for a long time and many of the world’s most famous races in the world are well over a hundred years old. But the British have developed an ability to win consistently and, so I’m told, cycling is becoming the new golf.

Part of what lies behind this achievement is what Sky Procycling team manager Dave Brailsford calls “the aggregation of marginal gains”. Brailsford’s philosophy is one that he’s applied to considerable success at British Cycling. The underlying idea is to identify every single element of what it takes to win and to ensure that however inconsequential it might appear, it’s attend to with great precision. Which means everything counts: from mechanical equipment to the choice of tyres and the way they are applied to the wheels, from sleep patterns to personal nutrition plans.

Even The Team Sky bus has state of the art lighting and seating to ensure ideal conditions for preparation and recovery. When you add up all these improvements, they have resulted in a significant advantage over the competition and the results are there for anyone to see: Over the last three Olympic Games, British cycling has been turned into a global dominant force winning 30 medals (including 18 golds), Bradley Wiggins made history as the first British winner of the Tour de France (2012), Chris Froome followed in his cleats this year.

In the data center, optimisation is all about looking for improvements in the way we do all sorts of things in order to reduce cost, improve availability, efficiency and so-on. The announcement of Intel’s Virtual Gateway – a cross-platform keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) software development – together with its integration into StruxureWare for Data Centers DCIM provides the opportunity to make more of a substantial step forward than simply a marginal gain. Intel made the Virtual Gateway announcement on July 12th and you can read more about the Schneider Electric development on DatacenterDynamics‘ website.

Hardware KVM solutions are ubiquitous and costly, and while they are said to be in decline, they are still present in most data centers. According to industry commentators IDC, these methods of managing and controlling IT have failed to evolve and keep pace with the fast rate of change and turnover we’ve seen in modern data centers. At the same time, firmware KVM solutions provided by IT equipment manufacturers leave IT departments locked-in to proprietary solutions. Even so, with no other choices, these respective markets are estimated to be $400m and around $1 billion.

Significantly, the introduction of virtual KVM (vKVM) provides the ability to view and control multiple vendors’ IT devices in a single console. By streamlining the firmware requirement and eliminating hardware, there is not only a cost saving in purchase and deployment, but also the freeing up of space and power within the racks. Besides the opex advantage which comes from having no hardware taking space, taking up power and taking up cooling, at Schneider Electric we think that vKVM could possibly reduce the cost of KVM deployments to between a third and a half of the current price tag.

As any good open system should be, Virtual Gateway is open to other vendors for integration. In addition, it complements Intel’s Data Center Manager (DCM) plug-in (also integrated into Schneider Electric’s DCIM offering). We believe that besides increasing the attractiveness of DCIM solutions, vKVM offers some neat performance advantages as well as cost benefits to data center professionals – more of a mainstream improvement than a marginal gain! Keep checking this blog for further details.


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