Data center management software provides you with information about events within the data center and, where it can, provides means for dealing with said problems, so you can proactively manage your data center and get more done without standing at a terminal inside the data center.
Data center management programs vary in operation and ability. Some are graphical programs that provide a simple interface visually representing your data center equipment, and some are very minimal terminal programs that, while tougher to use, can be quite powerful and, in cases, faster to use for a trained user than the graphical interface. However, they all provide information about network alarms and alerts that help technicians manage their network.
For data center management software to be effective, it must provide notification for alarms within the data center and be easily accessible from remote locations, so that technicians can work to manage the data center from wherever they are. Because you likely also have multiple technicians working in the data center, it must also have some means to coordinate efforts by multiple technicians.
To satisfy these criteria, your data center management software is typically hosted by your network alarm master station, which helps coordinate management efforts between technicians in the data center. This doesn't have to be a top-level master station for the entire network, but it should be a robust master station capable of collecting and reporting all of the relevant alarms from within the data center, and provide access, remotely or locally, to multiple technicians simultaneously. (If it is not the top-level master, it's likely that your data center management platform will also have to forward alarm information to a top-level master.)
With a sophisticated alarm management platform, like DPS Telecom's T/Mon, notifications for alarms can be configured on a per-alarm basis, with an escalation scheme that passes notifications on to technicians down the line if a notification goes unacknowledged. As alarms occur, notifications come to technicians, via email, text, or pager, and each technician can acknowledge the network alarm, essentially claiming it. Multiple technicians can then log-in to the network master, use the hosted data center management software, and each resolve their given network issues simultaneously.
Achieving this level of coordination without a concerted master interface is extremely difficult. Even if you're running the same management software across multiple terminals, and have a scheme for escalating notifications, the possibility that efforts fall out of synch increase. If efforts do become unsynchronized, you're likely to see a drop in productivity (and, potentially a drop in network reliability) as maintenance efforts overlap.
Many data center management platforms provide a graphical interface to users, visually representing the resources in the data center on a map or grid. Often times, the graphical interface is easier for users to navigate to find an option, and visually representing network resources on the map makes identifying problems by geographical location is easier than attempting to associate an IP or device ID with a specific device within the data center.
Some data center management graphical programs provide a simple grid on which to display gear, almost as if working in a spreadsheet. Others, like T/GFX for DPS Telecom's T/Mon platform allow you to load in a floor plan for the data center and plot your equipment out on an exact representation of your data center's layout, making administration and databasing easier – you can see exactly where problems occur within your data center. With the T/GFX interface, you can also zoom in or zoom out to view other levels of your network. From within the data center, this means that you can zoom in to view images of your equipment. On the full-network level, this means you can zoom out and access other data centers databased on the map.
Graphical data center management platforms typically also provide visual representation for your network alarms, problems within your network reported natively by data center equipment or by RTUs monitoring the data center. T/GFX, for example, allows you to place icons (including custom icons you choose to import in the program) on the map and associate alarms with each icon. As alarms go off, the icon will shift in color/state. Icons on higher levels of the map associate with icons on lower levels, so when an alarm occurs on a lower level of the map, you're notified by a change in state of the icon at a higher level, and you can follow blinking icons all the way down to your alarm. Most technicians find this to be much easier than remembering the IP address and point reference for every point within the data center.
In addition to being able to zoom in and out and place icons for all of your network alarms, the best graphical data center management software also provides a bridge between you and the interfaces for other equipment. You can associate the icons within T/GFX with the interfaces for equipment accessible in the data center, so, with a click of a button, just like an icon on your desktop, you can access your equipment within the data center.
Accessibility and ease-of-use, without sacrificing functionality, typically make graphical programs the interface of choice for data center management, however, there are two other common types of data center management programs that are still used.
Many master stations provide a terminal interface, operated with keystrokes and text-commands to navigate, database, and monitor the system. While this is generally the interface of a power user, someone who will be operating the data center management alarm master full-time, it can be extremely powerful and quick.
Because the terminal interface doesn't have to load any graphics and can be navigated roughly as fast as one can type, a trained user can navigate the system and manage the network quickly. T/Mon's T/Access platform, for example, allows a user to navigate down to individual alarms with the press of a few keystrokes, as opposed to navigating through entire map layers. However, while powerful, typically terminal interfaces for network alarm masters require training and familiarity with the product and interface and are more often used for in-depth databasing features rather than monitoring.
Some alarm masters provide a third data center management program, in the form of a web interface. Typically, the web interface is good for quick, mobile access to view alarms, analog readings, and, in some cases, operating controls on the go when you don't have other data center management software installed or are otherwise lacking access to said management software. The web 2.0 interface for DPS Telecom's T/Mon platform, for example, shows your alarms and any associated text messages or trouble tickets, allowing for limited modification in real time. It doesn't, however, allow databasing or provide the map interface or any of the features associated with icons in the graphical interface. But if you're on the go and you need to check up on your data center, from your phone or a laptop that either isn't capable or doesn't have access to the data center management software, the web interface provides an extremely convenient lifeline.
Your data center management software will likely be closely tied to your network alarm management platform. As you select an alarm management platform, be sure to take into account what sort of management software you intend to use. Pick a platform with a variety of solid interfaces likely to fulfill all your possible management needs, graphical, terminal, and web-based, and you won't be disappointed.
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