The power management skills gap

A recent survey by Freeform Dynamics of 320 senior data centre professionals reveals that datacentre facilities-related outages, e.g. to do with power and cooling, happen more frequently than you might think. Part of the problem stems from shortcomings in the facilities infrastructure itself, and the resiliency and DR measures associated with it; the study also suggests that skills gaps frequently exist. Skills shortfalls in relation to power management in particular undermine the ability to react quickly and effectively to incidents in this area. Inadequate knowledge and expertise are also undoubtedly contributing factors to suboptimal design of datacentre power infrastructure. Modern tools that provide visibility, monitoring, management and automated response capability potentially have a key role to play in improving service levels to the business. Business operations today are heavily reliant on IT systems, so the resiliency and recoverability of your datacentre infrastructure is critical to meet service level expectations. When considering this, it is natural to think initially about servers, storage, networking and business applications. However, assuring availability of facilities associated with power and cooling is equally important. But how well do organisations deliver against this imperative? Well, the recent research based on input from 320 datacentre professionals tells us facilities-related incidents and failures happen frequently enough to suggest that many organisations don’t have requirements fully covered in this area. One possible explanation for this is the fact that many report a need to strengthen their facilities-related resiliency and DR measures. And the picture we see above goes hand-in-hand with a lack of confidence in this power resiliency and response area. Delving deeper into the second of the imperatives we see listed here, it’s interesting to look at exactly how power incident management takes place. This reveals a heavy reliance on operator judgement. So why is this significant? The reason becomes clear when we look at how confident study respondents are about whether they have the necessary level of power management related skills and expertise. But the frequent skills-related uncertainty we see here also has implications in other ways, not least the ability to ensure that the datacentre environment is well-designed from a power management perspective. The second item listed on this chart suggests a related issue. Many are clearly not sure they are taking full advantage of modern power management solutions and techniques. This isn’t surprising when you consider how quickly software based tools have been developing in this space. With the pace of change, it can be very hard to stay up-to-date, let alone find the time to acquire and implement new functionality as it comes onto the market. Having said this, it is encouraging to see so many facilities operations teams exploring options in this space, with some already taking on board advanced solutions that allow advanced, centralised power management. And when you drill into the detail of specific functionality offered by these kinds of advanced solutions, it’s no surprise why so many are interested. Standing back from the data we have been looking at, the study highlights how easy it is for skills and knowledge gaps to open up over time. If the datacentre environment you are working in was designed quite a few years ago, for example, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the facilities-related infrastructure, tools and techniques in place at the moment may be relatively inefficient and ineffective by today’s standards. If this sounds familiar, the best advice is to get yourself up-to-date. Beyond the myriad web sources available to help with this, it is worth considering engaging a specialist power management supplier to review your current setup and suggest ways of modernising and otherwise improving it. The right partner can even take a lot of the challenges off your hands, as managed services are becoming much more popular in this space nowadays. The bottom line, though, is to make sure you are giving the power management aspects of your datacentre the proper level of attention. If you aren’t already considering this as an important part of business risk management, then maybe it’s time to start thinking in this way.
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Dale is a co-founder of Freeform Dynamics, and today runs the company. As part of this, he oversees the organisation’s industry coverage and research agenda, which tracks technology trends and developments, along with IT-related buying behaviour among mainstream enterprises, SMBs and public sector organisations.