Top data centre gremlins and how to smash them

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The gremlins of the data centre cause many problems – and they hide then pop up at the unlikeliest times, just when you thought you were safe… Here’s a guide to spotting and smashing them before they eat after midnight and tank a major service.

The Nervous Niggles (smashed with marvellous monitoring)

Niggles are the gremlin that creeps up on a daily basis. Often starting small, they lurk in darkness, growing, unless a light is cast upon them. The niggle is an alert, a problem, an amber warning light. It’s a problem that is persistent, soft, and not necessarily urgent.. for a time.

Clear monitoring with a quick remediation is the powerful light of day that banishes these creatures of darkness. What let’s these creatures thrive is being left alone to fester. Alarms and alerts need the right level of notification to get to the right person, and to be acted on, being logged and put in the actions queue for appropriate attention – and not left to cascade like a ball of tribbles.

What’s more, the data centre manager can smoke out the niggles by logging them to serve as a chronological map of where they hide, breed, and spread to. In this way, a data centre’s niggles are given no place to hide in the next round of infrastructure planning and replacement or refurbishment.

Notable niggles include temperature fluctuations within the aisles, generator function, and the provision of power.

The Energy Vampires (smashed with smarter automated technology)

The world could do without the energy vampires lurking in every enterprise, growing tremendously large in the enterprise data centre.

Power is the lifeblood of the economy and the western way of living. If we used less power, the surplus would be used for more important activities and everyone’s bills – citizen or enterprise consumer – could go down.

Banishing the energy vampire takes skill though – skills and the right tools. Van Helsing used a wooden stake and a knife (actually, two knives did for the evil count Dracula, but let’s not be pedants!), but the data centre manager has some more finely-honed weapons at their disposal than the Bowie and the kukri knives that slayed the fearsome vampire lord.

Those manging the technology in the data centre first must understand the lay of the land before they can fight their battle. Thus, the first weapon is usually a DCIM – or data centre infrastructure management solution. These aren’t all created equally, but a good one will allow the data centre vampire hunter to understand what every item in the infrastructure is using, and therefore where the energy vampires lurk unseen – pushing up the bills.

Automation is once more the data centre managers friend: Gathering the data from individual machines is a fools’ errand. If you’re looking at each individual tree, you won’t find the energy vampire lurking in the woods.

The Zombie Servers (smashed with software asset management)

It is not uncommon for data centre managers to look after hundreds if not thousands of servers but there is a horde hiding in plain sight. The horde are hungry, ravenous even and far from dead. They have a pulse, just - and are feeding from their host. Feeding from the bottom line.

These zombie servers could be costing organisations countless investment in the shape of licensing fees on virtual servers as well as the software they support. Such expense on what are needless, in a comatose state servers eats into the profits of any operational business.

This doesn’t have to be the case though. While this can become an epidemic, if unchecked, there is no need to rally the troops, call the armed guard and build a antiviral from patients zero – all that is needed is SAM. SAM, short for software asset management is a solution that helps organisations manage and optimise the purchase, deployment, upkeep optimisation and removal of software applications.

With SAM organisations can see which servers are running which software unnecessarily and reduce the need for that licence.

Not only that but zombie servers also drain a lot of operational cost through energy keeping them alive when not needed - running a mock just like energy vampires. It’s time for money to be made and not wasted.

The Peaking Tom (smashed with grown-up capacity planning)

The tranquil data centre manager looking after technology and software assets is often only calm because they’ve overprovisioned. They’ve sought safety in numbers: Resource numbers. But it’s come at a cost: financial, and in under-using what resources already exist. This is the domain of the ‘Peaking Tom’ – the gremlin that stops the data centre running at peak performance by over inflating the domain they thrive in. But, they need to be boxed in!

All the unused capacity lets the Peaking Tom grow fat and spoils the profit margin of the enterprise.

With these margins brought into better alignment with business goals the Peaking Tom is sent packing, and the organisation can operate at a peak capacity and peak efficiency.

The Gosh Darned Pesky Ratbag (smashed with sword of audit)

The Gosh Darned Pesky Ratbag (AKA GDPR – or the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation) is the regulation that caused mush wailing and gnashing of teeth prior to its enforcement in May 2018. The regulation provides explicit definitions on personal data, how it can be used and how it should be protected and managed, both within business processes and physically at the IT asset level.

Those struggling to comply, as all businesses with customers within the EU must, are plagued by the fog of confusion sown by the Gosh Darned Pesky Ratbag. This gremlin stops you understanding the lay of the land, and how and where customer data is being stored and handled.

As the majority of customer data is processed via on-premise or cloud-based servers, and accessed across the network, IT infrastructure teams must know where each packet of customer data is and how it’s being accessed, otherwise organisations could be in violation – in the thrall of the Ratbag.

Have a gremlin Smashing Time this Halloween

The primary tool for smashing these gremlins is often the aforementioned DCIM solution, as a multi-purpose audit, monitoring, automating efficiency-increasing way of seeing, understanding, and handling gremlins before the grow to become monsters.

  • DCIM can help give the business a clear view of how data is handled and safeguarded. It smashes the Gosh Darned Pesky Ratbag.
  • It’s used by those who seek to optimise their assets for maximum efficiency, and to manage the scale and complexity of offerings to ensure a high quality of service and a reasonable cost. It smashes the Peaking Tom.
  • It’s used to tackle the security and efficiency of the power chain, reducing costs and risk while improving efficiency and transparency. It smashes the Energy Vampire.
  • It automates discovery, workflow management, and reporting across the entire technology stack. It smashes the Nervous Niggles.

Mark Gaydos, Chief Marketing Officer, Nlyte Software
Image Credit: Scanrail1 / Shutterstock