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The Changing Face of Infrastructure Monitoring




The Changing Face of Infrastructure Monitoring
The Changing Face of Infrastructure Monitoring



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http://www.serverwatch.com/trends/article.php/3680851 

By Drew Robb 
ServerWatch 
May 31, 2007

Donald Trump is rumored to be heavily involved in it. Cisco Systems is 
all over it via its Cisco Connected Real Estate (CCRE) initiative. 
Numerous power, cooling and building-automation systems (BAS) vendors 
are jumping on the bandwagon.

What is it?

It's the convergence of IP networks and BAS. Convergence that is 
enabling IT managers to keep track of everything in one building via a 
single console.

"We are seeing an emerging market of security systems, HVAC and power 
systems managed via IP," said Andreas Antonopoulos, an analyst at New 
York City based Nemertes Research. "Long term, we will see other forms 
of convergence, such as IP managing a whole range of BAS."

BAS includes lighting, elevators, cooling and electrical elements. It 
can also encompass physical security systems, TV and fire safety =E2=80=94 all 
united under IP as the overarching control and monitoring system. 
Antonopoulos lists the benefits as power savings, coordination of 
physical and logical assets, and improved security.

While such systems are starting to appear, it may be years before they 
are a standard part of provisioning a new data center. The early stages 
of convergence are here, however, and range from simple extensions of 
existing IT capabilities to full-fledged facility systems that tie IT 
tightly into a building's infrastructure.

Netuitive, for example, sells a business service management (BSM) 
solution that analyzes the data center in real time. It self-learns the 
system and transmits advanced warnings of heating and power issues. 
Netuitive Service Analyzer correlates environmental metrics, such as 
temperature and power consumption, alongside server performance metrics.

"Because server overheating creates IT nightmares, knowing ahead of time 
that the power consumption or temperature is going up allows the IT 
manager to contact the building manager to proactively prevent 
problems," said Jean-Francois Huard, CTO and vice president of research 
and development at Netuitive.

Netuitive's technology is based on statistical regression and 
correlation analysis. For example, a data center with multiple air 
conditioning (AC) units might have issues with one AC control board that 
failed to detect a rise in room temperature and therefore didn't send 
any alarms. This system would detect the anomaly early enough so an 
admin could have the AC control board repaired and address the 
overheating issue before any servers shut down. This technology also 
learns server patterns, so intensive periods of processor usage that 
send temperatures higher don't also sound the alarm for no reason.

According to Huard, Netuity requires sensors be connected to the 
network. These can be found in the smart UPS and APC-MGE's NetBotz 
sensor offerings or Liebert's cooling systems.

Eaton offers a different way of monitoring. In addition to power 
equipment, Eaton's Foreseer Enterprise Management System manages 
environmental and life/safety devices from any site carrying a Foreseer 
server. It can interface with gear from most power and environmental 
equipment manufacturers, as well as fire, security, fuel, UPS, air 
handlers, HVAC, battery monitoring and temperature/humidity subsystems. 
Thus, IT managers can simultaneously track servers and building systems.

APC, meanwhile, has been steadily upgrading its InfraStruXure platform 
to encompass an even greater zone. InfraStruXure Central 4.0 covers data 
center design, monitoring and management, and it encompasses power, 
cooling, floor space and cabling. Its approach is to lower support costs 
and prevent downtime through early detection.

"With 1 to 2 percent of total U.S. power consumption now occurring in 
data centers, good data center design is vital =E2=80=94 but alone it is not 
enough," said Soeren Jensen, general manager of enterprise management 
products at APC-MGE. "It takes the right combination of design, 
operational and management factors to run things properly."

InfraStruXure Central has three components to take care of each facet. 
Thus, it can be used to design a data center from the ground up (or 
reconfigure it), for day-to-day operations and in overall management. It 
keeps an eye on UPS, power switches, PDUs, batteries, cooling, 
environmental monitors, airflow and server racks. It can also be tied 
into some BAS systems and enterprise management platforms.


IP in Charge

Although many of the systems mentioned above can access data from 
building systems, most are limited in what they can do. Ultimately, 
however, that will change. The overall trend is for IP to be the 
backbone for all building systems. Instead of having dozens of different 
cabling systems, only a few will be needed, and IP will manage just 
about everything.

"Every major sub-system manufacture has something to say about IP," said 
Tom Shircliff, co-founder of Intelligent Buildings in Charlotte, N.C. 
Intelligent Buildings is a pioneer in real-estate technology, design and 
management. "Larger companies like Trane, Siemens, TAC and Johnson 
Controls promote building technology platforms that look like Ethernet 
diagrams with their BAS applications hanging off the edge."

While this is a good sign, Shircliff cautioned that many of these 
established players in the facilities market continue to protect their 
proprietary protocols. As a result, products often labor to be truly 
interoperable with "foreign" controllers, other building applications 
and other technologies. He advocates platforms that accommodate multiple 
protocols and applications. Shircliff's advice to anyone planning a new 
data center:

"Convergence comes at many different levels and you should take what you 
can get in today's environment, and look to the most progressive vendors 
to push your legacy systems and providers," said Shircliff. "Basic 
interoperability is already attainable with mechanical controls, access 
controls/security and lighting controls."

Case in point: Intelligent Buildings was a primary vendor in a site 
known as Ballantyne Village in Charlotte, N.C. It executed its Fourth 
Utility concept alongside other providers, including Liebert, Panduit 
and Cisco. Fourth Utility is all about harnessing IP as a readily 
available utility =E2=80=94 just like electricity, water and gas.

"Most of the dozen applications that are converged and operating on the 
Fourth Utility infrastructure at Ballantyne Village were not planned 
from the beginning but were groomed onto the infrastructure along the 
way," said Shircliff. "Some are converged physically via conduit, cable 
tray and fiber optics, and others are electronically converged by being 
switched through the Cisco infrastructure."

This includes television, ambient music, digital signage on 35 plasma 
screens, energy sub-metering, WiFi, VoIP, LED property lighting, point 
of sales and even lavatories that tell the maintenance staff to bring 
more toilet paper or paper towels.

Another example is the 4 million square-foot North Carolina Research 
Campus (NCRC), which is being built over the next few years at a cost of 
$1.5 billion. Anyone looking to see the data center of the future would 
do well to investigate this property. It is being constructed from the 
ground up using Intelligent Buildings' Fourth Utility infrastructure.

"Building system convergence is being driven by the dominance of IP and 
the economics," said Jim Sinopoli, principal of Sinopoli and Associates, 
an engineering and consulting firm based in Spicewood, Texas. "As well 
as saving money on the construction of the building, the benefits are 
ease of management and streamlining of the skill sets required to manage 
the systems."

In the drawback side of the ledger, however, he notes that legacy 
methods of designing and constructing a building are hard to combat. 
Traditionally, each system is designed and installed separately. 
Therefore, it can be difficult to get architects, engineers and 
contractors to agree to look at doing things in a different way.

But like everything else, that will change with time. Shircliff thinks 
it might take another five to seven years for complete convergence to 
take place. Meanwhile, early adopters in the United States, like 
Ballantyne Village and NCRC, represent some of the relatively few North 
American examples, compared to a multitude of such state-of-the-art 
campuses using this technology in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

"From the perspective of the data center, the Fourth Utility is all 
about reducing capital expenditures and operating expenditures," said 
Terry King, business development manager at Liebert. "For now, however, 
it is mostly hype and discussion in the U.S.A. and not a lot of action. 
But that is going to change in the near future."

Copyright 2007 Jupitermedia Corporation - All Rights Reserved.


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