Asset management may seem dull and boring -- until you consider the growing global competition for resources.
Asset management is currently attracting newfound interest because of the global competition for resources. Let's look no further than the recent panic bubble over global warming and carbon credits. There is little argument that data centers use a lot of energy and take up lots of room. According to a recent report from AFCOM, "Trends in Data Center Design and Construction," by the California Data Center Design Group, a 50,000-sq.-ft. data center consumes more than $3 million annually in power, based on consumption averaging 80W per sq. ft. at an average price of 8.68 cents per kWh. With the cost of energy rising, pressures in the executive suite are higher than ever to cut prices, increase services, and prove worth. With IT being the well-documented consumer of enormous amounts of energy and power, network and data center managers are feeling the heat to be able to monitor, track and report on who is using what resources for what benefit and to what extent. The common technical term for this is asset management.
Is the issue real? What is it about asset management that makes it interesting today? I've said before that IT has access to more data on more things than ever before. The dirty little secret is that the data -- without considerable rework -- cannot help us identify where and how resources are being misused and operated inefficiently.
In most shops, the effort to pull data together into an accurate, coherent and usable database must be done manually. Then, getting information from the resulting spreadsheets, data tables and manual analysis is a slow, tedious and highly inaccurate process. Sure, there are and have been asset-management, data-correlation and analysis tools for ages -- but to deal with the expanding complexity of today's enterprise, we need automatic discovery, automated federation, intelligent analysis, and role-appropriate reporting -- never mind the ability to perform quick custom "what if" analysis to answer a few last-minute questions.
Today, asset management software such as IBM's can collect and correlate data to provide an end-to-end view of all operations and equipment used to deliver a business service. Armed with detailed data on network traffic and the utilization of network infrastructure assembled by department, application, individual and group, network staff can provide management with the data they need to understand the contribution of network operations and identify when equipment needs extension or replacement.
Coordination of data on application usage among financial planning, operations staff, contract management and procurement can result in big savings. When an enterprise knows whether it has over- or under-bought licensed access -- when it knows the actual application usage -- contract negotiation is better prepared to reduce prices, cut costs, or avoid fines for non-compliance with contract terms. Management with access to detailed information about the existing infrastructure, workload trends, and the potential impact on services can make better decisions about authorization of spending on an infrastructure (network, data center) refresh.
Network and IT operations staff need to take it upon themselves to understand what asset management tools can do for them. Good information can help you negotiate budgets and spending, justify and implement expansion or reallocation plans, and discover and reconcile deployed assets and their configurations against what is actually authorized. Network operations and management is far more than keeping the "plumbing" repaired -- it can be a vital link for improving operational efficiencies through effective device and cost management.
IT owns and controls the enterprise data. Networks tie together all of the distributed data and assets, as well as providing the path for reports and alerts. The network provides access to the tools needed for analysis, reporting, alerting and remediation. Asset management combines and impacts operations that touch every part of the organization. Auto-discovery of infrastructure inventory provides an accurate accounting of what's there, frequently uncovering "lost," underutilized and phantom assets.
There's also the issue of being "green." Proper use of assets information provides many opportunities to reduce energy consumption and lower costs. It provides the data that supports identification of underutilized infrastructure (which can be reassigned to be more efficiently loaded, reducing pressures on budgets), replacement of inefficient power-hungry devices with energy-efficient ones, management of workloads to run off-peak, resource virtualization, running of an energy audit, recycling and reuse programs, and so on. Increases in operations efficiency can reduce your power consumption and carbon footprint. The network provides access to the data, then supports the analysis and distribution of the information that is the basis for intelligent asset management.
About the author:
Richard Ptak is founder and partner at Ptak, Noel & Associates. He has more than 30 years of experience in systems product management. He was VP at Hurwitz Group and D.H. Brown Associates and worked at Western Electric's Electronic Switch Manufacturing Division and Digital Equipment Corporation. He is frequently quoted in the trade press and is author of Manager's Guide to Distributed Environments. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.