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Data center upgrade: not all or nothing

IT professionals in network server roomEveryone wants one screen to rule them all: one console display to monitor and manage all systems in a data center. According to some vendors, the only way to achieve this management “nirvana” is to bring in the forklifts and replace every system you own in one fell swoop. If you have an unlimited budget and no executive committee to report to, that’s a suitable and realistic plan.

For the rest of us, the good news is that there is a better alternative: updating servers as they hit the end of their life cycle according to the refresh cycle. A mixed fleet of servers can be highly manageable if you consider a handful of key issues while you’re building and evolving the servers within.

Picking the server management framework

Several decisions follow the initial decision of which server management framework is selected. The basic split is between a framework from a hardware vendor and a framework independent of any hardware tie. While they are alike in many ways, there are key differences that will have major implications for your hardware choices.

Hardware-tied or vendor-neutral?

First, it seems obvious that a hardware-tied management framework should be at the top of your candidate list if all your servers are from a single vendor. While each new generation of server has features that work more closely in concert with management applications, the vendor’s software will typically work with at least three previous generations of hardware.

Vendor-neutral frameworks may lack the ability to take advantage of some specific server features, but they tend to offer consistent management across all servers of a particular generation and across two or three previous generations. The real advantage of these frameworks involves existing analytics packages that you want to continue using. Integration with a wide range of third-party software is a strength of several vendor-neutral management systems.

Preparing for the future

With all of these management frameworks, one of the most important considerations is how well the package prepares you for the future, since changing the software that manages a fleet of servers is not something to be taken lightly. Whether the management framework comes from a hardware vendor or not, it will be the tool that allows you to manage new servers and server blades as they are brought into service through the normal hardware refresh cycle.

As servers become part of a growing ecosystem of platforms that support virtual or software-defined functions, a management framework that supports all components of an integrated environment, from the server to storage to the network, becomes more important.

A single pane of glass that allows you to monitor and manage absolutely everything in the infrastructure is not yet available, but you can have a data center management system that will provide direct management of the servers in a diverse fleet while allowing integration with platforms that manage networking, storage, and other functions.

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