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Does Our Dependence on Data Centers Disrupt EAM?

Does our dependence on data centers disrupt EAM?

Let's look at how data center management comports with or disrupts the current asset landscape, and all the ways EAM solutions support the next generation of enterprise equipment.

In the early stages of enterprise asset management, businesses leveraged the latest software and technology to monitor and manage mechanical equipment, emphasis on "mechanical" – piston-pumping, conveyor belt-having, turbine-spinning assets. So, does anything about EAM change as the discipline enters an age where companies must protect physical, production-intensive equipment as well as data centers powering virtual assets and environments?

Thankfully, no. Customizable EAM solutions like CMMS applications or proactive maintenance plans perform equally well across all types of machinery, both modern and legacy. More importantly, these platforms also allow users and maintenance professionals to oversee a variety of equipment all on the same interface with a consistent level of control.

We would be remiss, however, to say data centers are anything less than a whole new breed of enterprise asset. For example, an automaker's malfunctioning assembly robot primarily impacts production, and an oil company’s unresponsive pipeline affects service, but data center downtime can send wide reverberations across all business operations depending on which servers fail. And that’s just the tip of the virtual iceberg. Let’s look at how data center management comports with or disrupts the current asset landscape, and all the ways EAM solutions support the next generation of enterprise equipment.

"Data center outage costs rose by 38 percent since 2010."

High costs for digital risks

Businesses with their own data centers, as well as those whose business is in data centers, may already be aware of the ever-increasing cost of downtime. Predictable though this may be for organizations as they rely more heavily on data center functionality, it only stands to emphasize the importance of smarter response strategies when facing a possible system failure.

Research from a 2016 Ponemon Institute study revealed data center outage costs for the average business rose by 38 percent since 2010, from $505,502 to $740,357. As such, enterprise data centers require more attention paid to deficiency sensors and interoperable data center infrastructure/change management software to catch oncoming failures before they happen or preempt them completely. Solutions like these are the cornerstone of proactive maintenance, and can ward off data center meltdowns upon integration.

Data center work order management: An exact science

Most physical, mechanical equipment common to the industrial sector perform a short list of tasks, which make it relatively straightforward to determine how assets should act and at what degree of efficiency. Data center assets like servers, on the other hand, can be customized to run a mounting list of operations. This can be especially taxing on data center technicians who must stay organized in a room lined with identical hardware doing decidedly dissimilar things.

"Technicians must always account for dependency between virtual and physical assets."

Moreover, technicians must always account for dependency between virtual and physical assets comprising an enterprise network, which adds complexity to work order prioritization. Not only must data center staff ensure scheduled downtime doesn’t dismantle their business from the inside out, but they must give extra regard to the order in which they perform maintenance.

With all that in mind, technicians should leverage in-house equipment and maintenance information to better understand how to prioritize data center assets. After all, isn't ease of scalability a crucial element to data center best practices? How do they expect to grow commensurate with their enterprise needs if maintenance professionals have no means to determine how new hardware impacts systems already in place? Furthermore, like their more mechanical asset brethren and sistren, servers that receive maintenance without a transparent process for determining priority stand to waste valuable time fixing small problems while bigger ones loom unattended.

For companies, oversight can occur when investing in EAM software solutions capable of utilizing master asset lists and asset criticality rankings. A complete account of asset functionality and its importance stratified among others like it arm technicians with the information needed to perform cost-effective maintenance, as well as a framework through which to stay organized in preparation for scaling. 

Management of critical spares still crucial

Obsolescence is by no means foreign to developers of the latest enterprise technology, data center servers included. According to Schneider Electric, capacitors for uninterruptible power supplies require replacement every few years, to name but one component consideration data centers must entertain upon installation. Depending on what kind of server a battery powers, failure could "put the system into bypass, exposing downstream loads" and set off a chain of events corrupting connected devices.

"Data centers should use inventory management programs designed for critical spares." 

To prevent such events from occurring, data centers should use a battle-tested inventory management program designed to handle critical spares: their procurement, use and upkeep. For businesses managing their own dedicated servers, these spares might exist among others necessary to enterprise functionality. All businesses operate differently, so the criticality of all these varied spares must be weighed against each other to determine importance for greater management.

In addition, more granular data on the purchase and management of data center spares reduces handling costs by providing businesses with the resources to employ "just-in-time" replenishment and similar logistics enhancements, cutting the number of units in inventory without jeopardizing uptime with unpreparedness. Technicians can be notified in advance to place procurement orders as needed, freeing up cash flow otherwise devoted to ordering critical spares in bulk, storing them and keeping them safe until the day they’re put to use.

Although we've spent a lot of time today talking about how different data center assets are to the industrial enterprise assets that have come before, with the right EAM solutions in place businesses won't notice much of a difference in how they’re maintained, so long as the software and processes used comport with best practices.

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