Tag: Data Center

Innovation Comes from Listening to Customer Needs

By Sandi Renden, Director of Marketing, Server Technology

Product improvements are not solely the result of product management influences.

In many cases, the most innovative products are the result of customer feedback and they are often the most successful. To remain relevant, products must be in lockstep with customers’ changing needs to enhance their experiences. And data centers are a perfect example of an industry that must constantly adapt to change.

Why is the data center industry a good example? Because workloads need elastic processing abilities, servers have gone virtual and networks are sprawling at the edges. As this continues to happen, the power required to run these environments must be as flexible as their hardware and software counterparts. Intelligent rack power distribution unit (PDU) manufacturer, Server Technology, knows all too well how fast data center power requirements can quickly decrease a product’s usefulness when it comes to supporting changing rack devices. However, they also have a history of circumventing this unfortunate situation and exceling where other PDU and rack mount power strip manufacturers often struggle and sometimes fail.

Marc Cram, Director of New Market Development for Server Technology, shares some insights into how his company is able to quickly pivot product manufacturing and redesign data center PDUs to fit today’s elastic workload environments. Spoiler alert: their success comes from listening to their customers and allowing them to design their own PDUs.

Turning Pain into Gain

Where do good inventions truly come from? Willy Wonka states the secret to inventing is, “93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation and 2% butter-scotch ripple.” Although this may be practical for creating Everlasting Gobstoppers, in the data center environment, game-changing inventions are predicated on more simplistic methods. And perhaps the simplest, but successful stimulus for inventors comes from listening to customers’ pain points.

Cram says that Server Technology was founded by listening to customers and figuring out how to satisfy as many of their power needs—with a single PDU design. “It’s a tradition that continues to this very day; we still do leading-edge work for our customers by listening to their specific needs and turning that information into targeted products for their exact applications,” he says.

Cram understood that data centers were traditionally built in a raised floor environment and the IT managers were in the same facility. This situation made it easier for managers to frequently replace rack mount power strips as servers were swapped out. As time went by and the data center industry evolved, servers and racks were not necessarily located on the same premises where the IT managers were residing. Listening to customers, it became clear that having the ability to remotely read the rack power status made a tremendous amount of sense and alleviated the pain of traveling between data centers to read or reset PDU devices.

However, all customer needs are not created equal and some organizations did not want remote management capabilities. Rather, they voiced the need for PDUs to be equipped with alarm capabilities instead. “Banks are a good example of this,” Cram said. “The last thing a bank wants is for somebody to come in and turn off their rack power supply that just happens to be processing someone’s ATM transaction. You don’t ever want it to be interrupted.”

The Difference Between Hearing and Listening

Hearing is the act of perceiving auditory sounds versus listening, which is the act of paying attention to sounds and giving them consideration. Listening to customers allowed Server Technology to jump directly to a Switched PDU from a basic, unmanaged PDU. Cram says that by listening to customers, the company discovered a need for a power strip that had remote monitoring capabilities, but also provided individual outlet controls. Cram noted, “this is where the ‘smarts’ in our products came from.”

A similar listening/consideration process was also undertaken when Server Technology developed outlet power sensing. It was learned that customers like the per-outlet sensing capabilities, but they did not like the control. With this information, the company created smart PDU options. Now, Server Technology is offering five different PDU levels: Basic (power in/power out) Metered, Switched, Smart Per Outlet Power Sensing (Smart POPS) and Switched POPs.

The flexibility of five distinct data center PDU offerings, as well as the High-Density Outlet Technology (HDOT) line of PDUs, decreases the need to go back and reconfigure rack power when new devices are added. Cram says that “whether the need is for a full rack-of-gear or a rack that starts its life with three servers and a switch then eventually is used for some other configuration, Server Technology’s family of PDUs can handle the entire transition.”

The innovation behind the HDOT and the HDOT Cx resides in the ability that enables customers to select what outlet types they want as well as have them placed in the desired location on the PDU.  “You can reconfigure the rack to plug in a different device into the same CX outlet,” Cram says. For example, a customer populated a rack with 1u height servers with C13 outlets. Using the HDOT Cx would give them the ability to remove servers and add a high-end Cisco router or another big-power device that requires C19 outlets. The HDOT Cx outlet provides the flexibility they need without throwing away the original PDU.

Perhaps the ultimate result of listening to customers’ concerns comes in the ability Server Technology has given its customers to actually “build your own PDUs” or BYOPDU. This power strip innovation provides a website where customers may configure the exact type of outlets needed, based upon the PDU’s intent and initial use. By specifying the CX modules, the customer has extreme flexibility and the opportunity to extend the life and usability of each power strip.

Listening, Not Hearing, Pays Dividends

Customer feedback is one of the greatest sources of product inspiration and listening is a skill that needs to be developed to ensure useful evolution. Incorporating feedback to advance products will benefit entire industries—and creating a perpetual feedback/innovation loop ensures a steady stream of improvements. Aside from the flexible HDOT PDU family, Server Technology also developed other PDUs that distribute 415VAC, 480VAC or 380VDC—all in response to customer feedback and customer needs. “In an industry where rigidity breeds stagnation and stagnation impedes a data center’s ability to efficiently process workloads, customers’ voices are the inventor’s greatest ally,” Cram concluded.

Bio
Sandi Terry Renden is Director of Marketing at
Server Technology, a brand of Legrand in the Datacenter Power and Control Division. Sandi is a passionate leader and creative visionary, with over 25 years of management, digital marketing and sales execution experience, with a proven track record of success recruiting and retaining talent, hitting sales targets and developing multi-channel digital marketing and branding campaigns for non-profit and profit organizations in both B2B and B2C. She has international working and cultural (residency) experience on three continents (Americas, Asia and Europe.) Sandi has earned a BA in Marketing from the University of Utah and an MBA in Marketing.

The 5 Best Practices in Data Center Design Expansion

By Mark Gaydos, Chief Marketing Officer, Nlyte Software

When it comes to managing IT workloads, it’s a fact that the more software tools there are, the more risk and complexity is introduced. Eventually, the management process becomes like a game of Jenga, touching a piece in the wrong manner can have an adverse reaction on the entire stack.

In the past, data center managers could understand all the operational aspects with a bit of intuitive knowledge plus a few spreadsheets. Now, large data centers can have millions, if not tens of millions of assets to manage. The telemetry generated can reach beyond 6,000,000 monitoring points. Over time, these points can generate billions of data units. In addition, these monitoring points are forecasted to grow and spread to the network’s edges and extend through the cloud. AFCOM’s State of the Data Center survey confirms this growth by finding that the average number of data centers per company represented was 12 and expected to grow to 17 over the next three years. Across these companies, the average number of data centers slated for renovation is 1.8 this year and 5.4 over the next three years.

Properly managing the IT infrastructure as these data centers expand is no game-of-chance; but there are some proven best practices to leverage that will ensure a solid foundation for years to come.

5 Must Adhere-To Designs for Data Center Expansion:

  1. Use a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solution. As previously mentioned, intuition and spreadsheets cannot keep up with the changes occurring in today’s data center environment. A DCIM solution not only provides data center visualization, robust reporting and analytics but also becomes the central source-of-truth to track key changes.
  2. Implement Workflow and Measurable Repeatable Processes. The IT assets that govern workloads are not like Willy Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper—they have a beginning and end-of-life date. One of the key design best practices is to implement a workflow and repeatable business process to ensure resources are being maintained consistently and all actions are transparent, traceable and auditable.
  3. Optimize Data Center Capacity Using Analytics and Reporting. From the moment a data center is brought to life, it is constantly being redesigned. To keep up with these changes and ensure enough space, power and cooling is available, robust analytics and reporting are needed to keep IT staff and facility personnel abreast of current and future capacity needs.
  4. Automation. Automation is one of many operational functions that IT personnel perform. This helps to ensure consistent deployments across a growing data center portfolio, while helping to reduce costs and human error. In addition, automation needs to occur at multiple stages, from on-going asset discovery and software audits to workflow and cross-system integration processes.
  5. Integration. The billions of data units previously mentioned can be leveraged by many other operational systems. Integrate the core DCIM solution into other systems, such as building management systems (BMS), IT systems management (ITSM), and with virtualization management solutions such as VMware and Nutanix. Performing this integration will synchronize information so that all stakeholders in a company may benefit from a complete operational analysis.

Find a Complete Asset Management Tool

Technology Asset Management (TAM) software helps organizations understand and gain clarity as to what is installed, what services are being delivered and who is entitled to use it. Think of TAM as being 80% process and 20% technology. Whatever makes the 80% software process easier, will help the IT staff better manage all their software assets. From the data center to the desktop and from Unix to Linux, it does not make a difference—all organizations need visibility into what they have installed and who has access rights.

A good asset manager enables organizations to quickly and painlessly understand their entire user base, as well as the IT services and software versions being delivered. Having full visibility pays high dividends, including:

  • Enabling insights into regulatory environments such as GDPR requirements. If the IT staff understands what the company has, they can immediately link it back to usage.
  • Gaining cost reductions. Why renew licenses that are not being used? Why renew maintenance and support for items that the organization has already retired? Companies can significantly reduce costs by reducing licenses based on current usage.
  • Achieving confidence with software vendor negotiations. Technology Asset Management empowers organizations to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, what is installed and what is being used. Now the power is back in the company’s hands and not the software publishers.
  • Performing software version control. This allows companies to understand the entitlements, how this changes over time and who was using the applications. Software Asset Management allows for software metering to tell from the user’s perspective, who has, or needs to have, the licenses.

Accommodating Your Data Center Expansion

Complexity is all too often the byproduct of expanding data centers and it’s not subject to IT hardware and software only. To accommodate this expansion, facility owners are also seeking new types of power sources to offset OPEX. The AFCOM survey underscores the alternate energy expansion by finding that 42 percent of respondents have already deployed some type of renewable energy source or plan to over the next two months.

Selecting the Right IT Management Tool

Many IT professionals fall into the cadence of adding additional software and hardware to manage data center sprawl in all its forms, but this approach often leads to siloed containers and inevitably—diminishing returns from unshared data. When turning to software for an automated approach to gain more visibility and control over the additional devices and services connected, it’s important to carefully consider all integration points.

The selected tool needs to connect and combine with the intelligence of other standard infrastructure tools such as active directory and directory services for ownership and location. Additionally, the value of any new IT management tool that sums up the end-to-end compute system should be able to gather information utilizing virtually any protocol or if protocols are disabled or not available, and the baseline must have alternative methodologies to collect the required information.

IT Workloads are too Important to be Left to Chance

IT workloads are too important to be left to chance and managing data centers is not a game. Pinging individual devices at the top of the stack to obtain information only yields temporary satisfaction. There may be a devastating crash about to happen, but without knowing the stability of all dependencies—the processing tower could topple. Don’t get caught in a Jenga-type crisis. Help mitigate risks with management tools that offer intuitive insights up and down the stack.

Bio
As Chief Marketing Officer at Nlyte Software, Mark Gaydos leads worldwide marketing and sales development. He oversees teams dedicated to helping organizations understand the value of automating and optimizing how they manage their computing infrastructure.