A Roadmap to Success

DCIM gives National City Corp a rapid ROI and PNC Financial Services a platform to build on
by Barbara Morris, Editor, The DCIM Advisory

In today’s data center environment, operations management must deal with ever-increasing layers of technology, complex environments, multiple applications and greater power consumption in a more concentrated space. Ron Pepin, vice president of critical facilities and provisioning at PNC Financial Services, has a clear vision of the inefficiencies and costs that plague data centers. He outlines three fundamental challenges that operations management faces:

  1. High concentrations of power usage and empty real estate. More complex equipment requires more power but takes up less space. Pepin says, “This has left expensive real estate empty, and management doesn’t understand why staff is unable to use this white space.”
  2. Hotter racks and cooling costs. Even with consolidation, cooler chip technology and miniaturization, higher concentrations of power per rack will remain. Cooling costs will continue to escalate, as well.
  3. Space management and “server sprawl.” The estimated overkill rate for most data centers is up to 50 percent. Pepin adds, “We have studied trending of servers and are finding that usage rarely reaches 25 percent. Yet, we deploy a new server for every application because each one must have its own server.” 

These challenges aren’t the only ones that data center managers face. Pepin notes three key concerns that need attention in most organizations.

  • The risks of manual processes. Disparate, manual processes increase time to deliver and add inherent risks associated with human interaction and limited communication.
  • Limited ability to forecast. Current decisions and planning efforts are reactive to the environment, resulting in limited ability to forecast effectively with accurate supporting data.
  • Inability to share and manage consistent information. Many facilities, operations, planning and support areas cannot effectively share consistent information to manage and support infrastructure capabilities, utilization and allocations.

Fortunately, there’s a way to meet these challenges, reduce inefficiencies, drive costs down and make the CIO happy: A data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution. Pepin has a great success story to tell about how this has given PNC Financial Services an advantage.

Before the DCIM solution: A situation analysis

“I was hired by National City Bank, later acquired by PNC Financial Services, to run the construction of new data center floors and manage the facilities side of the company,” says Pepin. “I realized that managers did a lot of facilities planning on spreadsheets, Domino databases and Dunkin’ Donuts napkins.”

Pepin says many operations were dependent on creative, homegrown environments. In addition, all the power planning was based on vendor plate-value accounting, which is based on the maximum power consumption and not necessarily on real power consumed. This means the operations managers tend to over-provision data centers leading to most data centers being only 50 percent utilized.  “The bank needed a system deployed not only to manage the footprints of the data centers, but to work with new models in development. There was a clear business need for a data center infrastructure management solution,” says Pepin.

A ‘bake off’ to find the best solution

National City’s management team decided to write a request for proposal (RFP). Pepin says they “went out into the industry looking for solutions in the space.”

They found five, and proceeded into the initial stages of due diligence. He explains, “We brought them in and put together a 137-point requirement evaluation document to score the five tools. From that evaluation, we picked three and conducted a ‘bake off.’ We gave each organization 30 days to prove its capabilities. From there, each one installed its product, built it in a data center and showed us how well it worked.

“That was where nlyte excelled over and above the other two. It met 94 of the 137 requirements, while the closest runner-up scored in the 40s. nlyte was the clear winner, so we did a deployment for server inventories across the National City footprint.”

Rapid ROI with DCIM

The nlyte DCIM solution provided a return on investment (ROI) rapidly and brought back a large piece of the budget to business development. Pepin mentions three main cost-saving and capacity benefits of DCIM:

  1. Savings in consolidation paid for installation. Because of savings in consolidation, the bank paid for the initial installation of DCIM in only three months.
  2. Cost savings paid the three-year license in a year. Pepin says, “We found 400 to 500 servers doing nothing and pulled out all the dead wood for decommissioning. With the one-half a megawatt of power we reclaimed, we paid for our three-year software license in one year.”
  3. Virtualization tripled capacity. He continues, “By freeing up power and space in our data centers, we extended their lifetimes from a five-year capacity to a 15-year capacity.

Pepin says, “With nlyte, and the freed up one-half a megawatt of power, our CIO was able to reallocate budgets from about 70 percent for operations and 30 percent for development to 40 percent for operations and 60 percent for building tools for the business.”

Further advantages with DCIM

DCIM allows staff to import and see real-time data. Says Pepin, “With regulations looming, I need to have an accurate, up-to-date snapshot of the data, and so as I test for efficiencies, bringing in liquid cooling for example, I can show the measurements and improvements. When regulations hit, then I can say, ‘Look, we’re already in compliance and ahead of the curve.’”

The ability to virtually move environments from one room to another, along with all the statistics of power, cooling and space, is invaluable. DCIM also gives staff the ability to model outcomes with close to real-time statistics — without bringing in outside experts.

Pepin notes the Intel study conducted two years ago that found that data centers had become complicated, homogenous clustered environments, while in earlier days there were rooms that held one specific technology, such as mainframe rooms and telecom rooms. He continues, “Then Microsoft came along and created the homogenous environment.“

He notes that his team broke their environments back into separate rooms and looked at data center characteristics. One of the discoveries they made was finding that older rooms don’t need as much power or create as much heat.

Pepin says, “We did all that modeling and justification through DCIM, and we didn’t spend six figures to understand what we already knew. It’s easier to get approvals now because we have the facts.”

Staying efficient at the top

Due to the acquisition of National City Bank and PNC Financial Services, Pepin says they are still in technical transition.  However, they are effectively controlling and reducing power consumption as well as increasing efficiencies with the data centers so when government regulations do come they are many steps ahead with DCIM in place.

“We’ll be the fifth largest bank in the U.S., and the federal regulatory requirements are much higher for those in the top 10. We’ll have to make some big technological changes, but we’re in a great position to do so now.”


Ron Pepin is vice president of critical facilities and provisioning at PNC Financial Services. Prior to this he served as vice president and general manager of data center operations for National City Corporation in Cleveland, OH. Mr. Pepin has extensive expertise in data center operations, critical infrastructure facilities construction, business continuity, server consolidation, asset management and disaster recovery. He has over 29 years experience including senior management, architecture, implementation, administration, IT facilities and infrastructure including workstations, servers, and communication networks in large corporate environments.

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