Established in 1877, the University of Manitoba represented the first university in western Canada and has since grown into one of the country’s top research institutions with some 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers two main campuses in Winnipeg and more than 100 programs across multiple faculties and schools, providing more learning, teaching, and research opportunities than any other post-secondary institution in the province.
Supporting IT operations for the university’s facilities is a 3,400-square-foot data center that hosts its compute, storage, and core networking equipment. Seeing the need to optimize efficiency and ensure high reliability across the expansive space, the university sought a solution that would allow IT staff to keep a more constant pulse on environmental factors such as power, temperature, and humidity.
Monitor, Analyze, Manage
As a tool to improve monitoring capabilities for both its IT and facilities power infrastructure, the University of Manitoba turned to Visual Capacity Optimization Manager (VCOM), Eaton’s Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software solution. Part of the Brightlayer Data Centers suite, this HTML5-based platform features capabilities designed to reduce data center operational expenses, improve system and application reliability and mitigate risk through data analysis.
VCOM’s environmental monitoring capability was a primary feature that appealed to the university. The software allows staff members to create real-time thermal imaging profiles of the data center environment related to temperature, humidity, leak detection, door closure, and air pressure data. “We primarily monitor power, temperature, and humidity,” said Rick Verreault, the university’s data center coordinator. “We can monitor the incoming UPS power, as well as power at the rack PDU level ── and everywhere in between.”
The university is also taking advantage of the solution’s 3D rendering capabilities, which are available at all levels of the data center as well as across the enterprise. The tool, which can incorporate power, space, environment, IT networking, and virtualization parameters, allows the university to identify potential problems in a wide array of IT assets, including physical servers, VM hosts, VM guests, switches, rack PDUs, UPSs, and large facility devices.
“Currently we use it for the 3D modeling of the room and cabinets themselves,” Verreault notes, “as well as environmental aspects, including network, cabling, and power. The 3D client is also great for being able to show managers and directors a 3D model of the room.”
Gaining Business Intelligence
From the information gleaned through its DCIM software solution, the University of Manitoba has been able to reduce inefficiencies in cooling, as well as optimize other environmental parameters. The solution is not only instrumental in reducing inefficiencies but is especially advantageous in multi-tenant facilities as it provides views across many clients, with billing parameters for power, cooling, and space.
In addition to helping reduce data center operational expenses, DCIM software can improve system and application reliability, and mitigate risk through data analysis, providing university IT teams with the ability to easily track usage, utilization, capacity limits, and more. In turn, the software enables data center personnel to react quickly to potential problems through immediate and accurate location of faulty devices, as well as the root cause and impact analyses.
There are various DCIM software functionalities that universities can leverage to continue getting smarter about their data center infrastructure, creating custom reporting and dashboards for KPI tracking, trending, and predictive analytics. With Eaton’s VCOM solution, an integrated rack-building tool allows users to build each rack using a repository of more than 20,000 devices to deliver an accurate and visual display of the data center. IT staff can utilize “what-if” scenarios to understand current usage and ensure capacity for upcoming projects.
“It’s a great tool for incorporating several monitoring methods into one place,” Verreault explains. “Being able to view so many metrics with one piece of software is a great asset and the dashboards allow a less technical view for managers who just want to know everything is running properly.”
The author, Ed Spears, is a technical marketing manager in Eaton’s Critical Power & Digital Infrastructure Division in Raleigh, North Carolina. A 40-year veteran of the power-systems industry, Ed has experience in UPS systems testing, sales, applications engineering, and training—as well as working in power-quality engineering and marketing for telecommunications, data centers, cable television, and broadband public networks.