The next phase in data center management is data center-management as-a-service, or DMaaS, according to some industry experts. And the technology can produce cost savings, reduce data center downtime, and improve performance, according to a new report commissioned by Intel.
DMaaS (pronounced DEE-mas) platforms pull data from data center infrastructure and components and then monitor and analyze the information via cloud-based software.
The authors of the Intel-commissioned report surveyed more than 200 IT directors, managers, system administrators, and application architects in the U.S. and the U.K. this summer. They found that about 45 percent of respondents cited cost savings as the most important feature in a data center management solution. However, 59 percent said they still struggle with varied technologies that hinder their data management strategy.
“Through the implementation of a DMaaS solution, organizations will be able to forego using a combination of automated solutions plus manual processes (36 percent) and turn to a comprehensive solution that provides the necessary analytics to meet the needs of today’s IT environment,” the report says.
DMaaS vs. DCIM
DMaaS might sound similar to data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools that use sensors to report on a single data center’s temperature, humidity, air flow, power usage, security, and other things. But there’s a big difference.
DCIM analysis is confined to a single data center, said Rhonda Ascierto, VP of research at the Uptime Institute, which is part of The 451 Group. DMaaS, on the other hand, analyzes a much larger pool, providing a more comprehensive view.
“With DMaaS, all of the customers’ data is sent securely using encryption to a service provider’s cloud where it is anonymized and pulled together in a data lake,” Ascierto said. “It’s on that collective pool of data that big data and analytics analysis such as machine learning is applied. The analysis is on a large pool of hundreds if not thousands of customers across their data centers. And that really matters because the ability to do machine learning analysis relied on a large pool of data.”
It is “absolutely” a disruptive technology, Ascierto said. In fact, DMaaS ranked No. 5 out of the top 13 most disruptive technologies to the data center industry, according to a recent Uptime Institute study (see below).
“The future of data center management will increasingly be remote, cloudy, and AI-driven, and I think DMaaS is going to play a central role in it,” she said.
3 DMaaS Suppliers…For Now
In 2016, two major DCIM suppliers, Schneider Electric and Eaton, both started offering early versions of this new type of data center management technology. Just last month Nlyte Software, another DCIM vendor, added DMaaS based on IBM Watson to its lineup.
In an earlier interview with SDxCentral, Russell Senesac, director of data center business development, IT Division at Schneider, said the service can provide real-time recommendations so companies can optimize infrastructure performance and mitigate risk. It also provides insight into potential risks by leveraging global benchmarks and analytics in a data lake.
Schneider’s DMaaS technology is the most comprehensive thus far, Ascierto said. “Schneider is the furthest — they certainly have an early-mover lead today,” she said. “DMaaS is still in the very early stages.”
While there are only three suppliers, “I know for sure more are coming,” she added, “including, I believe, some of the large service providers such as really large colocation providers.”
In other words, a global colocation provider such as Equinix is in prime position to offer DMaaS to its customers. “It can be a very persuasive sales tool,” she said. “For example, it can also help support existing SLAs. And the greater visibility that they can offer into the operations for their customers, the more of a trusted partner they can be.”
Intel licenses technologies to Schneider for its DMaaS and is working with other technology partners that are interested in offering a similar service, said Jeff Klaus, GM of global data center management solutions at Intel.
That’s part of the reason Intel commission the DMaaS report. “I was very interested in understanding customer acceptance toward something like this,” he said. Still, “a couple elements are in question” about DMaaS’ future success, he added.
Challenges to Adoption
One of these is that some companies remain leery about sharing hardware data. “Some customers think data from their devices is proprietary,” Klaus said. The second concern is security.
Ascierto said this is the No. 1 challenge to greater adoption: “The first question is always how secure is this? I’m sending real-time information about my critical data center infrastructure like my UPS [uninterruptible power source] over a wide area network to my DMaaS provider — how secure is this?”
Involve the CIO and/or IT team to ensure the level of encryption meets corporate protocols for security, Ascierto suggests. DMaaS suppliers should provide military-grade encryption and guarantee that the data is anonymized and encrypted before it even touches the WAN. “And that’s what the DMaaS providers are already doing today,” she added.
Ascierto continued: “Secondly, let’s say someone was able to hack into that data and able to decrypt it, I would argue what can they do with that data? Unless they are able to get into your corporate network and access that IP address of that piece of equipment, what can they do with it?”
Network security threats exist whether a company uses DMaaS or not, Ascierto said: “Provided adequate measures are taken, I don’t really see [security] as a huge impediment.”