Asset Vue Insights

Here are industry insights and observations from Asset Vue about IT Asset Management (ITAM), data center asset management and colocation (colo) asset management.

IT Asset Management: By the Numbers – The Bottom Line

This is Part 5 of a 5-part series on Calculating the ROI of an ITAM Solution. The entire series is available as a complimentary white paper in PDF format for download here.

ITAMPart 5 of 5: The Bottom Line

Many vendors offer ITAM tools to inventory and audit data center assets, including web-based, visualization, connectivity modules, and mobile devices to make inventorying and auditing easier.

When properly implemented in the data center, ITAM tools can help to increase inventory accuracy and reduce the time and manpower required for inventory and audit processes. The ROI for ITAM is simple:

  • Fast. ITAM solutions can provide quicker physical IT asset audits in the data center and throughout the enterprise.
  • Easy. ITAM solutions can provide easy to navigate interfaces that work with your existing processes to improve performance.
  • Real. ITAM solutions can provide real data through actionable exception reporting and open interfaces to other systems.
  • Cost-effective. ITAM solutions cost far less than manual data center audits and can save time and money in daily operations.

ITAM Solution Checklist

When selecting an IT Asset Management solution, it must meet the following criteria to ensure the highest level of efficiency, accuracy and usability within the data center:

  • Predefined, customizable manufacturers list to ensure uniform data collection
  • Granular audit tracking
  • Advanced reporting capability including a full complement of canned reports and a custom reporting engine
  • Ability to manage multiple data centers
  • Full integration with DCIM tools
  • Browser-based, compatible with all web browsers as well as iPad and smartphones
  • Dynamic rack elevations
  • Top-down data center views
  • Customizable labels to match existing tools
  • Full IT asset tracking via portals with email, text, and ability to trigger work tickets

IT Asset Management: By the Numbers – The High Cost of Manual IT Asset Management

This is Part 4 of a 5-part series on Calculating the ROI of an ITAM Solution. The entire series is available as a complimentary white paper in PDF format for download here.

ITAMPart 4 of 5: The High Cost of Manual IT Asset Management

To best determine the ROI of an ITAM solution, it’s important to note the already high costs of a manual or legacy solution. There are four key areas to consider that can affect the outcome and cost of a data center audit: Initial Data Collection, Data Accuracy, Tracking Changes and Data Audits.

For this article series, we will assume a typical mid-size data center facility containing 200 racks with 20 assets per rack for a total of 4,000 total data center assets.

  • Initial Data Collection – The typical manual collection costs come to $15 per asset for “readily available” data which includes manufacturer, model, serial number, name, and location.
  • Data Accuracy – An industry report from Digital Realty Trust showed manual collection results in a 85-90 percent accuracy rate. This also results in a 10-15 percent error rate, or 400-600 assets with incorrect data in our assumption.
  • Tracking Changes – We make three assumptions here about data center changes. First, much of outages are due to changes. Second, 80 percent of the Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) is based on trying to locate the asset to change. Third, manual change tracking does not track unauthorized changes. The Digital Realty Trust report showed that 74 percent of data center managers were unable to locate a specific server within minutes and 20 percent were unable to locate the asset within a day.
  • Data Audits – There is a similar cost and effort involved with data audits as with initial data collection efforts.

High Cost – Based on these factors and assumptions, it is not unreasonable for data center operators to see costs of up to $60,000 or 20 man weeks around manual data center audits. And, these audits are proven to be inaccurate.

Lower Cost Alternative – Based upon the current cost of implementing a typical passive RFID solution in this scenario, the return on investment would be less than 12 months. And, these are proven to be 99.5 percent accurate.

IT Asset Management: By the Numbers – Why Inventory & Audit the Data Center?

This is Part 3 of a 5-part series on Calculating the ROI of an ITAM Solution. The entire series is available as a complimentary white paper in PDF format for download here.

ITAMPart 3 of 5: Why Inventory & Audit the Data Center?

Why should an organization conduct an inventory and audit of its data center assets? In a word: control. In order to best control the deployment, use and eventual upgrades or decommissions of its technology assets – and to best justify the costs associated in its technology investments – every organization must conduct accurate and up-to-date inventories and audits.

The purpose of conducting a data center inventory is to create a baseline set of accurate information for all the assets in an organization’s data center facility. Each piece of equipment must be located and accounted for, including recording specific details about each asset. Best practices for the asset information to record include, but are not limited to: manufacturer, model, device type, rack unit (RU) position, and any child or sub-contained -devices that may be connected or related to the asset.

Important features of the data center are often forgotten during the inventory and audit process. Best practices are to include facility as well as IT assets, racks and cabinets should also be tagged and inventoried with care taken to record their accurate location on the floor plan. Connectivity for both power and network connections should also be recorded.

Once an initial inventory has been completed, it is good practice to schedule regular audits of the data center. An audit can either be a spot-check on random racks of equipment or a full detailed audit of an entire data center. If the data center staff is documenting its moves, adds, changes, and decommissions when they occur in the data center, later audits should not be as time consuming as the initial audit.

IT Asset Management: By the Numbers – What is ITAM?

This is Part 2 of a 5-part series on Calculating the ROI of an ITAM Solution. The entire series is available as a complimentary white paper in PDF format for download here.

ITAMPart 2 of 5: What is ITAM?

IT Asset Management (ITAM) is the critical, yet often neglected, process of inventorying and auditing the assets within a data center. It is a subset of the larger process known as Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) which represents the convergence of IT infrastructure and building facilities functions within an organization. ITAM is the process by which IT professionals responsible for the data center are able to track and manage the data center assets under their control.

The list of inventory includes

  • Racks
  • Cabinets
  • Other floor-mounted devices (base assets)
  • Rack-mounted devices (contained assets)
  • Device-mounted assets (sub-contained assets)
  • Power connections
  • Network connections

IT Asset Management: By the Numbers – Introduction

This is Part 1 of a 5-part series on Calculating the ROI of an ITAM Solution. The entire series is available as a complimentary white paper in PDF format for download here.

ITAMPart 1 of 5: Introduction

The key to the effective and efficient management of an organization’s data center lies with the ability to capture and understand a comprehensive picture of what data center assets exists, where each asset is located and how each individual asset is connected to other assets.

As the complexity of a given data center increases – multiple aisles, multiple high-density cabinets, containing thousands of individual servers and storage devices – the task of capturing asset information becomes increasingly complicated. Simple solutions, such as noting serial numbers in static spreadsheets, become less reliable and costly as hundreds of man-hours are spent wandering a data center looking for asset tags.

Data center IT professionals need holistic data center tools that are designed to track infrastructure assets and facilities assets as well. Some examples are RPDUs, PDUs, CRAHs and UPS. Although these items rarely if ever move, they must also be audited and maintained. ITAM tools must be able to help users to automate and streamline this process.

Ultimately, a programmatic approach based in science and using reliable, repeatable and cost-effective tools and systems is the best solution. IT Asset Management is that solution. As with any other business system, data center professionals and company executives question the cost justification behind the solution. In this series of posts, we will take a look at IT Asset Management by the numbers and we will explain how to determine the return on investment for an ITAM solution.

The ROI of Passive RFID

There are a number of ways to use a passive RFID tagging system to save both time and money in the data center. These include:

  • Reducing time to conduct audits and maintain inventory
  • Increasing accuracy of data center audits
  • Quickly locating critical data center assets
  • Managing time-to-deployment
  • Managing service level agreements (SLAs)

In addition, as compared to active RFID systems, passive RFID tagging systems off er a number of benefits:

  • Tags are less expensive by 75% or more
  • Tags are smaller allowing users to tag small assets without “hang tags”
  • No battery in tags means no maintenance
  • No active RFID readers or repeaters are needed – a single mobile scanner can serve an entire data center

30 percent of physical servers lying comatose in corporate data centers

An interesting article in Government Computing News (GCN), Comatose servers draining data center efficiency, points out the fact that there is still a great deal of waste when it comes to unused server power in the data center. According to the article, a new study by IT consulting firm Anthesis Group working with Stanford University supports earlier findings from the Uptime Institute as well as much of the anecdotal evidence we’ve heard from some of our clients:

30 percent of physical servers are lying comatose in corporate data centers

Call them “zombie servers”, call them “comatose”, they are costing corporations billions in energy usage. As we pointed out a while ago the NRDC estimated that as many as a full one-third of organizational servers are drawing power but are no longer in use by the organization for any production. Making matters worse, a single watt of power drawn at the server is estimated to consume 2.2 watts total between the server itself, transmission losses, and cooling requirements. Finally, older servers (those most likely to be dormant) were inherently less energy efficient at idle. The end result is nearly 40% of all data center energy usage is simply waste.

In GCN, writer Kathleen Hickey says that researchers have come up with two solutions for unused computing systems when it comes to government data centers. The first is to use distributed computing to eliminate the need for separate computers for different tasks. The second is to turn servers on and off depending on capacity needs.

Of course, that depends on being able to locate the individual servers in the first place, and as we’ve said before, that is often the biggest challenge. I think that the most viable third option, which can work with either or both of the previous options, is to tag and track data center assets throughout their life-cycles.

RFID tracking is now being leveraged by many data center operations teams to manage assets and automate the previous manual process leading to increased accuracy and productivity. It takes 10 percent of the time to perform an inventory audit using RFID technology that it used to take with manual processes.

Is the healthcare industry and healthcare IT a good patient for data center IT Asset Management?

In a recent article in Healthcare Facilities Today, Data center infrastructure management in healthcare: The physical world meets the virtual world and the ‘cloud’, Sev Onyshkevych, chief marketing officer at FieldView Solutions, notes that the healthcare industry and healthcare IT is particularly vulnerable as the world moves inexorably toward all things “cloud”. Nothing is truly “virtual”; there are physical repercussions for everything.

Onyshkevych says: “IT professionals, occasionally lose sight of the fact that the computing and storage are actually physically taking place on some physical device.”

He’s correct of course. Healthcare infrastructure and data center assets must be carefully tracked in accordance with HIPAA, PIPEDA and other data privacy regulations. Perhaps because of this fact, Onyshkevych notes that “It is no coincidence that healthcare is an industry with one of the highest adoption rates of DCIM tools.”

He summarizes his thoughts saying that healthcare IT cannot ignore physical asset concerns and he calls for management tools that provide physical as well as virtual monitoring and tracking of IT assets.

I would add that healthcare IT is an especially good fit for an RFID IT Asset Management solution. The migration of assets from data centers to consolidated data centers, colo facilities or cloud data centers has driven the need for a solution like RFID technology to better manage migration. An RFID solution is portable, cost-effective to deploy and operate and provides real, tangible and accurate information for data center teams to act upon.

In that way, perhaps the healthcare industry and healthcare IT is a good patient for data center IT Asset Management.

A recent NRDC study says data centers could save up to $3 Billion annually

In August, the NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council) published a study, “America’s Data Centers Consuming Massive and Growing Amounts of Electricity” identifying how massive amounts of energy are used in data centers in the United States and specifically discussed the need for tighter controls on dormant servers ~ or as we have previously referred to them as Zombies (see Zombies).  

In the short, the NRDC has estimated that as many as a full 1/3rd of servers are drawing power but no longer used by the organization for any production.  To make matters worse, a single watt of power drawn at the server is estimated to consume 2.2 watts total between the server itself, transmission losses, and cooling requirements.  Finally, older servers (those most likely to be dormant) were inherently less energy efficient at idle.  The end result is nearly 40% of all data center energy usage is simply waste.  

So how did we get ourselves in this situation.  The problem is actually extremely pervasive,  many servers are abandoned because the data center inventory is not kept up to date.  Over time, the data center team loses track of where servers are physically located and don’t know what applications are running on what machines.

 In a mission critical data center, nobody is going to take the risk of un-plugging an un-documented machine. It’s simply too risky.

Asset Vue, works with data center managers to tag and track energy-draining assets before they go “missing.”   The value Asset Vue brings is to automate the inventory and audit process which greatly increases the odds that the inventory will be kept current and up to date.

What RFID Will Do for IT Asset Management

John Consoli, executive vice-president with Asset Vue in Bristol, Pennsylvania, says primary trends include moving business offsite and creating “co-located” facilities, as well as integrating workflow tools with RFID in the office.

“The migration of assets from a corporate location into a co-location or rented location really has driven the need and enhanced the focus of where assets are moving to,” says Consoli. “One of the hottest trends is using RFID technology to manage migration…so …cloud computing and co-location data center(s), a lot of enterprise companies and (other) businesses have decided they do not need to be in the data center business. They’re moving into co-located facilities where the service provider owns and operates the data center.”

Handheld RFID Reader to find assets.

Using a handheld RFID reader to find IT assets requiring maintenance.

Another trend, melding workflow into RFID, means greater efficiency and accountability. Customers are taking the technology and marrying it with other “monitoring tools” in the data center,  Consoli says. “It’s really a trend toward integration, as opposed to, if you go back a couple years, customers evaluating [RFID] as a standalone technology.”

For example, “the leading product out there, Remedy, is a tool where help desks log problems into a data center and Remedy generates work tickets for the maintenance team to go in and fix things. Integrating RFID with a tool like Remedy has an impact on how long it takes the maintenance team to find things,” says Consoli. It’s used as a “swipe ticket” which cuts way back on wasted time, he says.

By Laurie Wiegler

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Stopping a data tape before it walks out the door… priceless!

This summer we were challenged by a Fortune 100 company that uses tapes to back up customer data.  They needed a quick, cost-effective method for locating tapes as well as provide some assurance that tapes stayed in the data center… where they belong.   According to their estimates, an event as simple as a single misplaced data tape would cost well over $100,000.   Some at the company argue protecting the data tapes is actually priceless as the lost data is essentially unreplaceable.

While online backups, SAN replication, and affordability of backup-to-disk options are reducing the volumes of tapes purchased each year the reality is tapes are here to stay for many years to come and the regulations surrounding proper handling of data (especially as it relates to healthcare and financial data such as HIPAA & SOX) found at most midsized to large companies is enormous.   Before we move on, a couple key stats:

The cost of missing equipment and data…

  • –  A data tape can easily contain 5 million customer records per tape
  • –  A recent survey of 301 IT decision maker’s states that 42% state it could take a day or longer to find a server that had gone down
  • –  The cost to a corporation for just the remediation effort on a lost customer record falls between $72 and $193 per record…

By leveraging our Asset Vue Tracker Solution Suite, we were able to configure the desired solution and implement in multiple sites across the county extremely quickly, exceeding both their functionality and timing requirements.

To learn more about the Asset Vue Solutions, contact us here!