Environment and security management a must for many

Oct. 1, 2009
Users can achieve business continuity and energy manangement with the right information-technology mangement tools

Users can achieve business continuity and energy management with the right information-technology management tools.

Serge Smith has been employed as an information technology (IT) manager at a medium- to large-size corporation for more than four years. In his early days, he faced many challenges with regard to the company's network. The company's infrastructure was never high on the list, and he rarely even gave it a second thought. As long as he had enough space to house all the servers, switches, and storage devices, the power consumption, temperature, humidity, and cooling needs would take care of themselves. Or so he assumed.

Over time his company's business evolved and requirements for the IT department grew significantly. He would constantly hear requests such as, "I need more computing power," and, "Use less space and power," as well as, "Maximize utilization of our assets," or, "Use newer, more-powerful equipment."

This natural growth gave Serge an additional headache. While his organization obtained more-advanced technology, providing considerably greater computing capabilities, it also placed a higher demand on reducing power consumption and the floor footprint. Together with the fact that the equipment was now far more sensitive to environmental conditions than it previously had been, Serge realized that he could no longer afford to ignore his infrastructure's physical needs. Quite the opposite, he had to manage them in real time and make sure they performed within the industry's recommended boundaries.

Serge faces a problem an increasing amount of IT manager also confront. He has the responsibility of not only managing his company's assets, but also making sure their environment and security needs are constantly met. A few months ago Serge Smith had never even seen his company's electricity bill. As with many other IT managers, he now has the task of measuring it and, much more challenging, significantly lowering it.

RiT's Paladin is a real-time environment and security management system that can help users reduce power consumption.

The demand for power has increased threefold and has placed a growing strain on organizations' electricity supplies and budgets. For example, a large data center's annual power bill can easily exceed $2 million. What's more, it has reached a point at which companies are seeing their annual power demands exceeding supply capacity. These considerations are among those that compel many companies to invest huge sums of money to build or expand facilities. This is a costly undertaking that, with better infrastructure management, could have been prevented or at least significantly delayed.

A real-time environment and security-management solution could help effectively reduce power consumption as well as provide Serge and his company with numerous added benefits such as lowering heat and regulating temperature. For example, Serge can monitor power consumption and temperature readings over time. He can then use this information to locate a time of day in which high power-consumption causes the temperature to rise as well, so he can adjust the data center services' running schedule in order to lower peak consumption periods. With a solution that seamlessly monitors and manages facilities in real time, IT departments can retain the control needed to ensure the most appropriate environment.

Incorporating green IT

An additional benefit to environmental and security management solutions is the impact they have on the macro-environment. New environmental legislation in Europe and anticipated legislation in the United States has many corporations concerned. According to a recent survey conducted by Campos Research, almost 70% of data center professionals are anxious about the possible effects of the European Union's new Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) regulations on their operations. Almost the same number of data center professionals said they were extremely or very concerned about governmental regulations in the United States. The EU's CRC aims to reduce carbon emissions in large non-energy intensive organizations by 1.2 million tons per year by 2020. Due to start in April 2010, it covers all energy other than transport fuels such as electricity, gas, and oil.

Paladin's interface allows its users to implement environment and security management from remote locations, as shown here.

IT equipment considerably impacts the environment in terms of energy use, carbon emissions, hazardous substances, and accumulation and disposal of electronic waste. Standard equipment such as laptops, desktops, and network switches all release greenhouse gas into the environment. A report from ABI Research showed that a 1U rack switch with 24 Ethernet ports in continuous use will consume 2,190 kWh in one year. That, together with the coal used to generate the power, will release two tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere along with other pollutants.

With multiple security and environment sensors and automatic action capabilities, environment and security management solutions act almost as an "invisible employee." They monitor a variety of metrics for business-critical equipment from a single system. This enables a user to immediately identify an abnormal or unwanted behavior and automatically perform preventive or corrective action.

For example, an average U.S. data center of 25,000 square feet is expected to consume $2.6 million in energy costs per year at $0.12 per kWh, according to John Lamb, author of the book The Greening of IT. Most power-eating servers in data centers currently operate at only 10 to 15% capacity. Added to that is an estimated 30% of the equipment that is obsolete or decommissioned but still using power. With an environment and security management system in place, obsolete equipment or equipment that is not functioning efficiently can easily be detected, corrected, or replaced. Virtualization technologies are becoming very popular, and enable organizations to dramatically increase server utilization up to 80%. This utilization level, however, increases the heat generation of these servers, which are usually blades. They therefore require real-time monitoring to ensure the right operational environment is provided for such high-power, 24/7 demands.

Globally, data center facilities are estimated to account for more annual carbon-dioxide emissions than the entire country of Argentina, according to research conducted by McKinsey & Company and the Uptime Institute. With technology becoming more advanced and power consumption increasing, Gartner predicts that by next year, half the world's data centers will not even have the capacity and infrastructure needed to meet the power and cooling requirements of the most advanced high-density equipment. Environmental management solutions provide modularity and scalability of the most advanced sites, support cabinets, and additional equipment in facilities.

Detecting threats

Furthermore, avoiding equipment failure as a result of threatening environmental conditions dramatically reduces downtime of IT infrastructure. Conducting research in February 2009, Intel discovered that power consumption and cooling alone accounts for up to 23% of server deployments and is one of the biggest opportunities for companies to cut costs. The Uptime Institute has found that for every 18-degree rise in temperature above 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), servers lose approximately 50% of their reliability, causing hardware malfunctions.

Environment and security management solutions track a wide range of additional environmental and safety conditions including humidity, temperature, flooding, and smoke detection. All these conditions severely impact the environment in which data centers and enterprise communications rooms operate. For example, a cooling malfunction or flooding can cause significant or irreplaceable damage to a facility and its equipment. These threats can potentially lead to a total shutdown of services, unnecessary downtime, and loss of revenue.

Lowering the environmental dangers to mission-critical facilities also includes safeguarding the equipment against physical security threats. Using a wide range of sensors and cameras, an organization can track any illegal/unauthorized activity in real time. If, for example, a door is opened or closed by unauthorized personnel, or a network cable is tampered with, the IT department will know immediately. A camera is activated on the problem area, or a siren can also be activated and an alert sent remotely over an IP and/or cellular network to the relevant IT and security personnel. Even offsite locations are observed automatically, with the system determining if an action should be initiated by the user in response to a situation or, alternatively, activating any one of a list of predefined automatic actions.

Remote management

Some environment and security management systems are ideally suited for remote physical sites and facilities. These include cellular base stations; telecommunications carriers and cable-television sites; water, gas, and fuel repositories; and power/electric facilities. The solutions help track generators, active or sensitive equipment, and provide fuel-level management. An electric company, for example, has many unmanned substations, each containing crucial passive and active equipment. An environmental and security management system ensures control over any electricity failures, systems restart, configurations, high temperature and security aspects. By ensuring the sites are monitored from a central management application, which can be entered from any location, most alerts can be handled remotely, saving the electric company time and money.

Additional features of environment and security management solutions should include the following.

• Standalone software generating reports and graphs for easy-to-review analysis and trending

• Advanced and intuitive user interface for easy configuration and use

• Capabilities to monitoring multiple local and remote controllers

• Support for a wide range of sensors of various technologies, such as analog and digital

• Multiple vendor compatibility

• A real-time policy-based alerts and actions mechanism

• Full operation and alerting via LAN and/or cellular networks

The right IT management tools help organizations ensure business continuity while reducing power consumption and cooling costs. They save expenses resulting from downtime and additional needs such as security, provisioning, and management of remote facilities. Real-time solutions offer an efficient process and environmental and security advantages.

Oded Nachmoni is vice president of strategy and professional services with RiT Technologies (www.rittech.com).

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