This is a continuation from Part 1.
Comprehensive data center operations support
When DCIM emerged as a segment, people did not get it. DatacenterKnowledge reported that Gartner published its first Magic Quadrant (MQ) report on DCIM in 2014. No single vendor satisfied all the required DCIM functions, and some started to partner with others to provide wider function coverage. 451 Research pointed out that a new segment is necessary for a comprehensive view of data centers, and it defined a new term that complemented DCIM. That new layer is called data center service optimization (DCSO). The result is Figure 1 below. In this figure, in addition to Tier44, we can see ABB and ServiceNow. Note that Tier44 added their name, ServiceNow, and ABB to appropriate places in the figure to indicate where these companies fit.
Figure 1: DCIM and DCSO functions (Source: 451 Reseach and Tier44)
ABB was one of the investors for Power Assure, and Tier44 maintained a working relationship with it. See below for Tier44’s relationship with ServiceNow.
Clemens had a list of several functions similar to those in Figure 1, and I classified them as DCIM or DCSO in the following table. The list is not comprehensive; it only shows some representative pieces.
|Configuration management||Incident management|
|Building/cooling management||Work management|
|Power temperature monitoring||Energy monitoring and management|
|Integration with existing IT and facilities components||
Equipment life cycle, planning, placement, and disposition
|Intelligent building||Cloud and application management|
|BMS||IP performance management|
|Sensor||Pricing and chargeback|
|Monitoring||Application shifting & dynamic capacity adjustments|
|Virtualization||Demand response, energy pricing, power capping|
|Asset management||SaaS OPex, usage fee – non-CAPex license fee|
From this list it is clear that functions close to the infrastructure belong to DCIM and those in higher layers belong to DCSO.
Data center management as a service
If you apply a software tool, it is an implementation of an application. If you provide a comprehensive set of functions, it becomes a service. Clemens did something interesting. He integrated the DCIM and DCSO functions with ServiceNow (remember this from Figure 1).
ServiceNow is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider of service management (SM) software for the entire enterprise. (Wiki). This means it provides a set of libraries with well-defined APIs for developers to use. Developers can add their customized applications and integrate them with ServiceNow standard applications. ServiceNow provides support for service management, IT operations and management, IT business management, custom application development, and industry solutions in the areas like finance, health care, life sciences, and public sector, according to their website.
Tier44 integrates their functions with the ServiceNow platform to tailor and enhance ServiceNow for data center operations management. The integration is shown at two different views in Figure 2 (higher/user) and Figure 3 (under the hood).
Figure 2: Abstract view of Tier44’s solution with ServiceNow
When the user purchases a data center management service integrated into SeviceNow, he signs into a ServiceNow web interface to monitor and control his data center operations anywhere remotely. The user sees only this UI, but data collection, monitoring, and analysis are going on at Tier44’s cloud with real-time data coming from the user’s live data centers.
I do not intend to go much deeper into their architecture. But if I open the hood and see what’s under it, Figure 2 expands into Figure 3 below.
Figure 3: A little more detailed view of the architecture
In Figure 3, the ServiceNow cloud contains a standard UI, several databases, including one for configuration management (CMDB), incident management and workflow, applications (app), and services like web services and database services. The ServiceNow cloud can be tailored for each user with specific applications and extensions to the UI and CMDB. Tier44 tailored the ServiceNow environment for data center operations management. Incidentally, Tier44 calls this holistic data center management. It is yet to be seen if this will become a recognized category like DCIM and DCSO.
Tier44 added applications “app” to support their functions, and added an extension to the UI to incorporate the Tier44-specific UI. The user sees the standard UI and the Tier44 UI together in a seamless integration that the user is not aware of.
Figure 4: An example screen that shows the ServiceNow navigation on the left with some Tier44 specific extension menus and some content from Tier44
ServiceNow has multiple databases, such as CMDB and an asset database, both relational databases. The extension to CMDB is a schema to work with Tier44’s added application. As a relational database, CMDB is not designed to hold a vast amount of data generated from data center operations. The real-time data collected from the user’s data center are stored in Tier44’s database, which is NoSQL (Cassandra).
With the link between ServiceNow DB services and the Tier44 database, the data stored in Tier 44’s database can be referenced after seamless analysis. The benefit is a single point of truth and single point of maintenance which is all done within ServiceNow.
Let’s look at the architecture from a different view, as in Figure 5. Tier44’s product is EM/8, and it can be interfaced with other DCIM tools, as shown in Figure 5. In the IT segment, standards are promoted and vendors are keen on them. However, in the data center market, standards are hard to come by. Tier44 took the initiative to integrate with other tools that have their own data formats and protocols rather than wait until standards emerge. According to Clemens, writing an interface for other tools to be integrated with EM/8 is not a major task for Tier44 anymore because they acquired 7 years of integration work done by Power Assure that they just have to maintain and keep current.
Figure 5: Another view of Tier44 integration with ServiceNow
Fundamentally, there are no major changes between the core functions provided by Power Assure and Tier44. They both provide capacity planning, server efficiency, power management, and runbook automation. The big difference is that Power Assure provided data center specific functions alone and tried to explain how they worked for data center operators. Geoffrey A. Moore argued that we need the whole product before it can be widely accepted in the market. Each Tier44 function is helpful by itself but complex to explain and maintain without a consistent inventory/configuration management. Integrating Tier44’s functions with ServiceNow increases functional coverage and eases its acceptance in the market. It also minimizes complexity with single maintenance points and inventory accuracy from single configuration management, reducing time, required resources and total cost of ownership.
Integrating with ServiceNow also gives Tier44 wide market exposure without the sales force. It remains to be seen how this change impacts the data center market and Tier44’s bottom line.