News
13 April 2020 Reading time: 14 minutes

Natalya Tsaryova

Product-manager

Data center market trends and DCImanager development plans

The market of data storage infrastructure is growing and users are becoming more demanding. Now not only prices are important, but also the quality of service. DCIM solutions help to comply with new reality.
Detailed information about the market situation and the capabilities of ISPsystem products was provided by Natalya Tsaryova, Head of DCImanager – a platform for managing servers and data center equipment.

Data center market trends

The world is becoming more and more digital. The volume of information processed in the Internet is growing exponentially.
The volume of information is growing exponentially. Source: Statista
Data volumes are growing – the market for storage infrastructure is growing as well. Global growth: 9% per year in terms of equipment and 14.5% in term of money.
In addition, users are becoming more demanding in terms of service quality. The developer of service software ZenDesk has surveyed its clients and found out, that for them an important criterion of quality is the speed of response and problem solving.
Service quality requirements
Providers need to meet the new requirements, and to do so, improve the data center management system. DCIM solutions help accomplish this task. Their market is growing by 22% per year and is expected to continue to grow.
Why do providers use DCIM solutions?
  1. Reduction of operating expenses. The software allows you to optimize processes and reduce the time required to perform operations: server preparation for provisioning, OS installation, etc. The software also reduces the load on technical support: in a user-friendly interface, the client solves most of the problems himself.
  2. More transparent planning. The larger the provider, the harder it is to control the equipment fleet and plan purchases. DCIM solutions allow you to keep record of any amount of equipment and reduce unnecessary equipment costs.

DCImanager: differences and opportunities

DCImanager is a platform for managing the entire data center infrastructure, from equipment to physical and virtual networks. 12 years on the market.
Last year we announced the development of the new version. In spring, the first prototypes were shown, and later the beta version was released and open testing was conducted. The commercial version was released in January 2020.
We will briefly talk about the differences and opportunities of the new generation.

Architecture

The new version of DCImanager is based on a microservice architecture: the entire functionality is divided into separate services, total of about 20 at the moment. The services are isolated and do not affect each other's operability. This grants a number of advantages.
Usually a control panel can be installed on one virtual or dedicated server. DCImanager can be installed simultaneously on several servers and the load will be evenly distributed between them. It is also possible to move high load services, e.g. statistics gathering, to a separate server: if the panel is managing thousands of devices, it generates a large load.
In addition, through the use of microservices, we are able to develop services independently of each other, and thus add new features to the product faster.

Interface

We have made the panel interface as simple, convenient and responsive as possible. We have tried to reduce the number of actions for key operations.
With the new interface, technical staff can solve problems quickly. A flexible notification system allows them to always be aware of what tasks are running, what their status is, and what is happening to the equipment in general.
Not only the provider's staff, but also clients get access to a convenient, very simple dashboard, where they can manage the server themselves. This is exactly the opportunity that is in demand right now.
The client can see all ordered servers and their details. The most basic operations are just a click away in the menu: reboot the server, power on/off, install the operating system or enter the IPMI interface. Simple and fast.

Possibilities of DCImanager

Managing different locations

Providers place servers in different buildings, cities or countries. The equipment is distributed territorially, but forms a common business infrastructure. Therefore, it is important to see the bigger picture. However, many clients use multiple panels and have to switch between the panels to assess the state of the entire infrastructure. This is inconvenient.
DCImanager allows you to manage all locations in one interface. The locations are independent of each other. DCImanager itself can be installed either on one of the location servers, or on equipment independent of the location.
You can see summary of the location details in the interface: how many racks are there, how much space is available/occupied, how much equipment is there and which condition it is in, what is happening to the networks. Switching between locations is done in one click.
On the right, DCImanager is installed on one of the location servers, on the left - on equipment independent of the location. Any of these options is possible. All locations are independent of each other.

Remote equipment management

One of the important requirements to DCIM solutions is the ability to manage equipment remotely. The more operations can be performed without physical access to the infrastructure, the better.
DCImanager allows you to remotely install the OS, launch the recovery mode on the server, connect to IPMI servers. A built-in proxy tool allows you to connect to servers in both public and private networks.
Moreover, the use of proxies does not involve any inconveniences that existed before. Third party software is used for proxying, and in general, it is better to install it separately. However, with DCImanager this is not required, because all services are isolated.
Launching recovery in DCImanager. Everything is as simple and intuitive as possible

Diagnostics

DCImanager performs server diagnostics automatically. It collects information on memory, disk, CPU, and local connection speed. If any faults are detected during the diagnostics, DCImanager will alert the administrator. Immediately after the diagnostics, you can start IPMI configuration and hard drive cleaning by checking the corresponding boxes.
Launching diagnostics in the interface

Managing network equipment

The feature of DCImanager is its ability to manage not only servers, but also network equipment from the panel.
DCImanager shows the status of each switch, how many ports are free, their current mode, to which device they are connected, and whether they are enabled. If the port is disabled, you can enable it in just one click. If you need to change the speed or mode of the port, you can do it from the interface literally in a couple of clicks.
Managing network equipment
What benefits does this give to the provider? It is easy to understand the equipment connections. Simple operations can be performed not only by the network engineer, but also by any on-duty administrator. The speed of work goes up.

IP addresses management

When working with physical networks, it is important to keep track of the address space. The number of IPv4 addresses of the provider is limited, so it is important to understand what equipment the IP address was assigned to and in what status.
DCImanager allows you to manage physical and virtual networks. In addition, DCImanager can divide the physical network into IP address pools, assign specific address pools to one rack, and then all servers from that rack will use only those IP addresses.
As for virtual networks, you can merge ports into a VLAN or exclude them directly from DCImanager interface. You will be able to see the status of the ports, in which VLANs they are used, and which devices they connect.

Equipment inventory and statistics

It is important for providers to consider and understand the type and location of the installed equipment. DCImanager allows you to control occupancy of the racks, equipment status and location, and who owns it.
In addition, it is important to monitor the load on infrastructure and track deviations from the norm. This allows providing uninterrupted service and timely response to incidents, and deviations from the norm. For example, if there is an excess load of traffic in a certain place, you can quickly find out from DCImanager the source of this load and either solve the problem or reduce the speed of the port. A malfunction will be prevented this way.

Automatic server provisioning

To ensure proper level of client service, it is necessary to automate provisioning of servers to clients. Customers will then be able to buy servers at any time, regardless of whether the employees are at their workplaces.
DCImanager is integrated with WHMCS, HostBill and BILLmanager. A flexible API system allows you to integrate it with the provider's client area. We have invested many efforts into the API so that you can organize the server purchase process the way you want. All details on API are provided in the documentation. We have described each function and method and added examples.

How to switch to DCImanager


We have prepared a migration tool that will allow to migrate equipment from any system: in case of Excel – move the information, or if it is a full solution by another vendor – move servers, networks, locations. Automatically, without stopping the equipment. Our support service will accompany the migration process fully.

Plans

OS installation: RAID support and disk partitioning

We will improve the ability to work with your operating system templates. We will add the ability to configure software RAIDs from the interface, as well as to partition the disk before installing the OS.

Server internal status monitoring

The next big task: monitoring the internal status of the server: gathering real-time information on memory, CPU, temperature. It will allow for a deeper understanding of what is happening in the infrastructure right now, without delay.

Extended notification system

We will add the ability to configure the notification system flexibly. For example, set an alert for a certain overtemperature value. The notifications will be sent in the panel, via Telegram, Slack or email. In addition, you will be able to customize which parameters and events you want to receive them for. You will be able to divide events into groups: so that one part of the staff receives some notifications, while the other part receives others.

Management of networks (routers)

Providers are actively moving to spine-leaf network architecture – L3 network management level. We want to be able to do this from DCImanager. We are planning to add not only switch management, but also router management right from the panel.

Equipment inventory and data center map

We will monitor movement of absolutely all spare parts, from the moment they reach the warehouse until the decommissioning. We are planning to add a data center map so that the provider can not only understand how much equipment is there, but also how it is located in the racks.

Q&A (from the audience)

Question 1.Our support team is often asked to replace a server because it is out of order. We would like DCImanager to help solve such requests automatically; prompt whether there is a free server with the same configuration and, roughly speaking, provision that server to the client at the click of a button. Are you planning to add this ability?

It is an interesting suggestion, thank you. We will consider this opportunity. We have created a task at feature request, where everyone can leave a comment and vote for the idea.

Question 2. To open IPMI, clients often have to install and configure Java on their machines. For many, this is difficult, requires advanced skills, and installation of Java often causes problems. Is there a solution?

Yes, there is. In DCImanager 6, all necessary software is already pre-installed in the IPMI proxy module, including Java. You can install this module directly from the panel interface in a couple of clicks. After that, the client will have access to the server IPMI and will not need to install any additional software.

Question 3. A question on IPMI, will Intel AMT support be available?

Yes, it will be. But the timing has not been defined yet – this is not a very popular request, so the priority is low.

Question 4. When installing the OS, can RAID 1 be configured?

Not at the moment, the OS is simply installed on one of the disks. We are planning to add software RAID support in the second quarter of 2020

Question 5. What kind of monitoring is available on the provider's side right now?

Traffic monitoring is provided: volume, network load, burstable. In the near future, we will add monitoring of the internal status of the server: CPU, RAM, HDD, server availability

Question 6. Are you planning to make server monitoring available to end users? So they can set up notifications to their email or messenger.

Yes, there will be a flexible notification system for the end user to understand what is going on with their rented equipment.