Expert Blog: Top 9 Dashboards for Remote Data Center Management

Herman Chan
Author: Herman Chan is President of Sunbird Software.

As data center environments continue to grow more complex, data center managers are increasingly turning to business intelligence and analytics to provide the information they need to manage and optimize their sites. The COVID-19 pandemic has quickened the pace of this trend due to shelter-in-place orders and the need to minimize the number of staff on-site, resulting in a surge in demand for remote data center management tools with built-in dashboards that provide immediate actionable insights.

Dashboards are a key component of remote data center management. Having focused charts and reports, each with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your top objectives, accelerates data analysis and improves collaboration and productivity by displaying only the data you need to succeed for any particular goal. Dashboards also help break down organizational silos by encouraging information sharing across functional teams. Every team member knows to visit their dashboard for the latest information, and everyone sees the same data which boosts transparency and accountability.

The most useful KPIs will depend on your specific objectives. However, based on our experience with hundreds of customers participating in our global user groups, we’ve consolidated feedback on what information matters most to modern data center managers. The following nine dashboards and their associated KPIs have proven to be essential for successful remote data center management.

  • Space – Space is often one of the biggest limitations in data center operations management, and intelligent space planning is key to navigating data center expansion and optimization. A dedicated dashboard on data center space will provide the most critical information you need to know your capacity to deploy new devices, use your space efficiently, and defer costly investments in new data centers. Important metrics to track include available floor and cabinet space remaining, available space by individual and contiguous rack units, available rack units over time, server/network blade chassis slot availability/usage, and rack unit used by rail.


  • Inventory – Most data centers have a wide variety of assets, but some organizations still rely on error-prone and inaccurate manual processes and outdated spreadsheets to track their asset inventories. An inventory dashboard provides a reliable, at-a-glance view of what server, network, and storage assets you have, how many you have of each, and the current status of each asset so you can easily and accurately plan for their lifecycle. On your dashboard, be sure to track asset makes, models, age, configuration, and available inventory of parts and field replaceable units.


  • Connectivity – In addition to tracking the assets in your data center, you need a connectivity dashboard for a singular view of physical data and power port capacity to ensure available resources to deploy new assets and services. Achieve optimal resource utilization, ensure redundancy, and successfully plan and implement projects by monitoring cabinets with the most free data and power ports, data ports usage per connector type, assets per connected power supplies, data and power ports usage per port properties, and data and power ports usage over time.


  • Change – A change management dashboard simplifies the management of moves, adds, and changes, helps you maintain SLAs, and drives efficiency and productivity of data center staff. In one single dashboard, you can have complete visibility into how much work is being done in the data center, what is being done and by whom, and what progress is being made on change requests. In your dashboard, track change requests by user, stage, and type, change requests by length of time per stage, completed requests over time, and changes per person. Monitor and manage your requests from creation to approval to ensure work order quality and transparency while improving staff efficiency through improved collaboration.


  • Power – Ensuring that mission-critical servers are running, power capacity is available for those servers, and failover redundancy is clear are key components of high availability of services. A dedicated power dashboard will help you improve uptime and efficiency with KPIs like power capacity remaining, power usage trends by cabinet or individual make/model of servers, breaker utilization trends, and stranded power capacity.


  • Environment – Data center mangers need to make sure that their equipment is operating safely within manufacturer or ASHRAE guidelines to avoid downtime or overcooling. By monitoring important environment metrics such as latest inlet temperature per cabinet, delta-T per cabinet, and maximum temperature per cabinet, you can ensure optimal conditions, increase energy efficiency, and identify hot spots.


  • Enterprise Health – For dynamic views of an enterprise’s data center health on a single pane of glass, you need an enterprise health dashboard. In such a dashboard, each location is represented by a color-changing tile based on live power and environmental readings. Capacity and health status are shown with easy-to-understand red/yellow/green indicators along with important information such as critical events, temperature, current power usage and available capacity.


  • Enterprise Overview – For data on all locations or sites across your entire enterprise, consider an enterprise overview dashboard. Monitor KPIs like floor space capacity, data port usage by connector, stranded power, cabinet space capacity, average temperature, historical item counts, pending requests per stage, budget power capacity, and total actual active power to easily compare and contrast key operational KPIs across all your sites.


  • What-If – To know the potential impact of a change in your data center on a per-project basis, you’ll need a what-if dashboard. Easily understand how power capacity, rack units space capacity, and power redundancy will be affected by additions and decommissions of equipment. With this information, you can quickly plan, model, and understand if additional resources are necessary in order to meet demand, or perhaps utilize existing resources and defer capital expenditures.

Many data center managers likely already leverage charts and reports in some form, but perhaps pulling data from disparate systems or spreadsheets. Storing data across multiple, separate sources without seamless integration leads to inaccuracies and errors and reduces your ability to effectively and efficiently manage your data center remotely. Data that is limited, out of date, or untrustworthy becomes difficult to rely on to make the most informed and reliable decisions.  Worst, you may need to travel to the data center to confirm your information.

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software make remote data center management easy by providing a single source of truth that is updated and visible in real time. DCIM makes it easy to identify and eliminate inefficiencies like overprovisioning and stranded capacity and to avoid unexpected and unnecessary expenses.

A modern, second-generation DCIM solution will provide actionable insights immediately with zero configuration required. Leverage over 100 interactive dashboard widgets out of the box, filter data for faster pinpointed analysis, or export for use in a third-party system. With secure, shareable links that respect role-based access, you can drive a culture of collaboration around common data center KPIs and dramatically enhance remote data center management.

Sunbird Software