To provide stakeholders with vital IT services, organizations need to keep their private data centers operational, secure and compliant. Data center management encompasses the tasks and management tools necessary for doing so. A person responsible for carrying out these tasks is known as a data center manager.
What is the role of a data center manager?
Either physically onsite or remotely, a data center manager performs general maintenance—such as software and hardware upgrades, general cleaning or deciding the physical arrangement of servers—and takes proactive or reactive measures against any threat or event that harms data center performance, security and compliance.
The typical responsibilities of a data center manager include the following:
- Performing lifecycle tasks like installing and decommissioning equipment
- Maintaining service level agreements (SLAs)
- Ensuring licensing and contractual obligations are met
- Identifying and resolving IT problems like connection issues between edge computing devices and the data center
- Securing data center networks and ensuring backup systems and processes are in place for disaster recovery
- Monitoring the data center environment’s energy efficiency (e.g., lighting, cooling, etc.)
- Managing and allocating resources to maximize budgetary spending and performance
- Determining optimal server arrangement and cabling organization
- Planning emergency contingencies in case of natural disaster or other unplanned downtime
- Making necessary updates and repairs to systems while minimizing downtime and impact to IT operations and business functions (also known as change management)
Certification programs exist for IT students and professionals who want to acquire or enhance the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in data center management.
Common challenges of data center management
By nature, asset management within an enterprise data center is complex. A data center is often comprised of hardware and software from multiple vendors, including numerous applications and tools. A data center environment can also co-exist and interact with private cloud environments from multiple cloud service providers. Each hardware component, software instance and cloud-based environment can have its own contractual terms, warranty, user interface or licensing permissions. Every element of a data center also has unique processes and procedures to follow when implementing patches or upgrades. While a challenge in its own right, complexity is also a contributing factor (if not a direct cause) of many other challenges faced when managing a data center.
Because of a data center’s complex multi-vendor environment, it can be difficult for data center managers to ensure all SLAs are being upheld. These SLAs can span:
- Application availability
- Data retention
- Recovery speed
- Network uptime and availability
Data center managers can struggle in a complex environment to track which warranties have expired or what each warranty covers. Without visibility over warranty information, money may be needlessly spent on components that may have otherwise been covered.
For private data centers, IT staff, energy and cooling costs can consume much of the limited budget allocated to what’s typically deemed a non-value-added cost to the organization.
Data center managers may be forced to use insufficient or outdated equipment to monitor their complex data center operations. This can result in gaps in performance visibility and inefficient workload distribution. Capacity planning is also negatively impacted, since data center managers reliant on disparate or outdated equipment may not have the accurate metrics needed to assess how well a data center is meeting current demands.
Data center managers often work with limited staff, power and space due to budgetary constraints. In many cases, they also lack the proper tools needed to manage these limited resources effectively. Limited resources can hinder service management, resulting in the delivery of delayed or inadequate IT resources to business users and other stakeholders across an organization.
Meeting sustainability goals
Many organizations are working to reduce their carbon footprint, which means finding ways to reduce the energy consumption of their data centers and transition to green energy sources. Data center managers are tasked with implementing the hardware and procedures that reduce their environment’s carbon footprint while simultaneously dealing with existing data center complexity and limited resources.
How to overcome the challenges of data center management
Data center managers can use a data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution to simplify their management tasks and achieve IT performance optimization. DCIM software provides a centralized platform where data center managers can monitor, measure, manage and control all elements of a data center in real-time—from on-premises IT components to data center facilities like heating, cooling and lighting.
With a DCIM solution, data center managers gain a single, streamlined view over their data center and can better understand what’s happening throughout the IT infrastructure.
A DCIM solution provides visibility into the following:
- Power and cooling status
- Which IT equipment and software components are ready for upgrading
- Licensing/contractual terms and SLAs for all components
- Device health and security status
- Energy consumption and power management
- Network bandwidth and server capacity
- Use of floor space
- Location of all physical data center assets
A DCIM solution can also help data center managers adopt virtualization to combine and better manage their data center’s IT resources. More advanced DCIM solutions can even automate tasks and eliminate manual steps, freeing up the data center manager’s time and reducing costs.
Colocation data centers
A colocation data center is a third-party service that provides an organization with physical space and facility management for their private servers and associated IT assets. While the organization is still responsible for staffing and for managing their data center components, a colocation service offloads the burden and costs associated with building, running and maintaining a physical space.
Hardware, hybrid cloud and AI solutions for sustainability
There are hardware, hybrid cloud and AI solutions available to help data center managers reach their organization’s sustainability goals while maximizing data center performance. For example, the right server can greatly reduce energy consumption and free up physical space—in some cases, up to 75% and 67%, respectively.
Data center management and IBM
With electricity, you want enough capacity to get the job done, but not so much that you’re wasting it when not using it. Use hybrid cloud and AI to streamline operations, save energy and increase performance, making sustainability a true business driver—while delivering a return on your investment.
Reduce your footprint: IBM® LinuxONE Rockhopper 4 servers can reduce energy consumption by 75% and space by 67% (when compared to the same workloads on x86 servers with similar conditions and location) . With energy-efficient data centers, consolidated workloads and improved infrastructure, you can save money and lessen your footprint.
Automate your energy use: With IBM® Turbonomic®, automate your energy use to improve energy efficiency. Measure, analyze and intelligently manage resources to ensure applications always consume exactly what they need.
Simplify data management: Get market-leading performance and efficiency from the unified IBM Storage FlashSystem platform family, allowing you to streamline administration and operational complexity across on-premises, hybrid cloud and containerized environments.
 Compared IBM Machine Type 3932 Max 68 model consisting of a CPC drawer and an I/O drawer to support network and external storage with 68 IFLs and 7 TB of memory in 1 frame versus compared 36 x86 servers (2 Skylake Xeon Gold Chips, 40 Cores) with a total of 1440 cores. IBM Machine Type 3932 Max 68 model power consumption was measured on systems and confirmed using the IBM Power estimator for the IBM Machine Type 3932 Max 68 model configuration. x86 power values were based on Feb. 2023 IDC QPI power values and reduced to 55% based on measurements of x86 servers by IBM and observed values in the field. The x86 server compared to uses approximately .6083 KWhr, 55% of IDC QPI system watts value. Savings assumes the Worldwide Data Center Power Utilization Effectiveness (PUE) factor of 1.55 to calculate the additional power needed for cooling. PUE is based on Uptime Institute 2022 Global Data Center Survey (link resides outside of IBM.com). x86 system space calculations require 3 racks. Results may vary based on client-specific usage and location.