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Must Have Tools for the Enterprise Data Center

Level 11

Today’s data center is full of moving parts. If your data center is hosted on-premises, there’s a lot to do day-in and day-out to make sure everything is functioning as planned. If your data center is a SaaS data center hosted in the cloud, there are still things you need to do, but far fewer compared to an on-premises data center. Each data center carries different workloads, but there’s a set of common technologies that need to be monitored. When VM performance isn’t monitored, you can miss a CPU overload or max out memory. When the right enterprise monitoring tools are in place, it’s easier to manage the workloads and monitor their performance. The following is a list of tools I believe every data center should have.

Network Monitoring Tools

Networking is so important to the health of any data center. Both internal networking and external network play a key role in the day-to-day usage of the data center. Without networking, your infrastructure goes nowhere. Installing a network monitoring tool that tracks bandwidth usage, networking metrics, and more allows a more proactive or preventative approach to solving networking issues. Furthermore, a networking tool such as an IP management tool that stores all the available IP addresses and ranges and dynamically updates as addresses get handed out. This will go a long way in staying organized.

Virtual Machine Health/Performance Monitoring Tools

Virtualization has taken over the data center landscape. I don’t know of a data center that doesn’t have some element of the software-defined data center in use. Industry-leading hypervisor vendors have created so many tools and advanced options for virtualization that go above and beyond server virtualization. With so many advanced features and software in place, it’s important to have a tool that monitors not just your VMs, but your entire virtualization stack. Software-defined networking (SDN) has become popular, and while that might end up falling under the networking section, most of the SDN configurations can be handled directly from the virtual administration console. Find a tool that will provide more metrics than you think you need; it may turn out that you scale out and then require them at some point. A VM monitoring tool can catch issues like CPU contention, lack of VM memory, resource contention, and more.

Storage Monitoring Tools

You can’t have a data center without some form of storage, whether it be slow disks, fast disks, or a combination of both. Implementing a storage monitoring toolwill help the administrator catch issues that slow business continuity such as a storage path dropping, a storage mapping being lost, loss of connectivity to a specific disk shelf, a bad disk, or a bad motherboard in a controller head unit. Data is king in today’s data center, so it’s imperative to have a storage monitoring tool in place to catch anomalies or issues that might hurt business continuity or compromise data integrity.

Environment Monitoring Tools          

Last, but definitely not least, a data center environment monitoring tool will keep you from a loss of hardware and data altogether. This type of tool will protect a data center against physical or environmental issues within the data center. A good environment monitoring tool will alert you to the presence of excess moisture in the room, an extreme drop in temperature, or spike in temperature. Monitoring tools usually come with a video aspect to monitor it visually, plus sensors installed in the data center room to monitor environmental factors. Water can do serious damage in your data center. Great monitoring tools will have monitors installed near the floor to detect moisture and a build-up of water.

You can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting your enterprise data center. Monitoring tools like the ones listed above are a good place to start. Check your data center against my list and see if it matches up. Today, there are many tools that encompass all these areas in one package, making it convenient for the administrator to manage it all from a single screen.

17 Comments
Level 13

Thanks for the article.

Level 13

Thanks for the article.

Level 13

Definitely true.  The other thing that's really important (and often lacking from what I've seen) is making sure the staff knows how to use the tools.

Level 15

Thanks for the write up!

MVP
MVP

Thanks for the article.

Level 14

Good stuff but I do agree that I want to monitor my cloud stuff at least as much as my on prem (maybe even more) as I have less control of it.  I want to know even further in advance that something is beginning to go wrong.

Environmental monitoring is usually forgotten.  Several years ago I had just started at a new client when the data centre went down.  The air-con failed and the room started to heat up.  Unfortunately the temp sensor was at one end of the room and the e-mail servers were at the other.  By the time the temp sensor tripped the e-mail servers had shut down so no alert was sent.  They didn't have a monitoring solution in place.  I soon changed that.

I wonder if your statement is true:  "If your data center is a SaaS data center hosted in the cloud, there are still things you need to do, but far fewer compared to an on-premises data center."

I believe I want to know every bit about their cloud environment as I do my local physical data center environment.  Practically speaking, if one of those items is good to monitor in your own data center, why isn't it equally important to know for the environment that hosts your data in the cloud?

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I want to know all the same things about that cloud environment that I monitored locally.  In fact, I'm even more interested in the cloud's status since I can't control it, can't manage it, can't secure it, can't control who has physical access into cloud data centers . .

Level 14

Terrific article.... thanks!

Level 8

Great article. Thanks!

Level 15

For On Prem I always liked a good packet capture tool.

MVP
MVP

I feel off-prem requires the same tools as on-prem..just because it is running on someone else's computer doesn't lessen the requirements to know your stuff is working and how well is it working.  Is it meeting SLA's?  Is it working well performance wise at the off-prem location but drags locally to your shop?  How would you determine you have a latency issue?

This is a good basic list...

I feel it lacks a couple of vital points.

Data centers change (on-prem and off-prem)...it is a constant in life.  They grow, the move, standards change, etc.  Thus your tools must be scalable and maintainable.  You can't control a number of the changes at an off-prem site.

Can you scale quickly ?

You need a logfile management solution for a variety of reasons. (on and off prem)

You need to be able to correlate events from numerous logs/business services to events from your NMS. (on and off prem)

What about the crucial business services running in your data center(on and off prem)?  If they aren't running then the datacenter is not showing any worth.

Then many companies have a batch processing cycle, maybe you need to include some workload automation tools to handle the scheduling and monitoring of that batch environment. (on and off prem)

Lastly...do all the tools communicate and share information and events well ?  (on and off prem)

How is the patching/upgrade cycle going to impact monitoring?  Patching or upgrading a component (tool) could impact or break integration with others.

This becomes more of a moving target with off-prem environments.

In the end there is no difference on or off prem.  Monitoring AND alerting requirements are the same but may be harder to integrate from an off-prem environment where you have less control.

Level 20

We do like our monitoring tools.  Now to continue to try and keep alerts to a minimum!  Like Jfrazier​ says it's really all about correlation of the events to make some sense of it.

Level 11

Thanks for the article.  Definitely want to see more monitoring tools/advancement for the cloud.

Level 13

On point -- thanks.

I'd go even further and amend the xyz -monitoring to xyz - management. I personally differentiate between the term montioring as "look but don't touch" and management as "(pro)actively do something". For example the "vmware-sprawl" page in vman where you can actively manage your virtualization infrastructure.

if this is implied in your term "monitoring" then we are on the same page. I just wanted to clarify the terminology that I implied.

MVP
MVP

IT is nice to be validated!

Level 12

yeah that's true, thanks for the suggestion.