Data Centre Intelligent Automation and Management Innovation of the Year
Colocation Operators Using DCIM to Improve SERVICE MANAGEMENT
With XpedITe, RiT Tech is becoming to the data centre sector what Tesla is to motoring – a champion of innovation and the driving force behind greater autonomy and doing everything we can to achieve that goal.
However, DCIM has never been popular with colocation operators as they have either not seen the need to manage their customer spaces to this degree of detail or they have not found solutions suitable to their needs so instead have attempted to build their own expensive tools to perform this function. The maturity and the functionality of the XpedITe platform is such that it is already capable of revolutionising data centre management within colocation environments, bringing new approaches and novel capabilities that offer significant advantages, particularly in the area for Service Management.
Intelligent automation and management innovation is at the core of the XpedITe solution to offer a successful Infrastructure and Operations management system. XpedITe is a toolkit which serves to simplify the burden on operators and act as a federated management platform that intelligently links previously disparate systems. Ultimately it works with legacy systems to automate workflows, improve operational efficiencies and reduce total cost of ownership. Its smart automation, integration and customisation tools translate to more rapid and more informed communication between sales and engineering staff and customers, a faster, more accurate service and – in turn – greater customer engagement and satisfaction.
In a world where colocation offerings are becoming increasingly commoditised operators are seeking to differentiate themselves. Improving Service Management is a critical component of this differentiation. It is not enough to simply offer Space, Power, Cooling and Security, increasingly there is the need to offer a more comprehensive service wrapped around these core requirements and a greater attention to customer service management in order to compete with an increase in customer choices.
RiT Tech’s XpedITe is a comprehensive data centre infrastructure management solution for data centres and workspace facilities. It helps to optimise business operations, resource management, asset utilisation as well as infrastructure planning and operations.
The platform consists of the following main modules: Asset Management, Asset Discovery, Connectivity Management, Dashboards and Analytics, Power and Thermal Telemetries, Provisioning and Automation.
The solution federates management of the cornerstones of data centres – including facility, cooling, power, hardware and connectivity – to create a single version of truth across data centre layers, departments and processes.
The benefits of the XpedITe platform, however go far further than providing efficiencies through an encyclopaedic insight of the make-up of every rack, cabinet, cable and port. The system’s advanced algorithms problem-solve and plan, generating automated work orders with sufficient detail that they can be used remotely by 3rd party installers. These ensure that any moves, adds, changes, maintenance tasks or major network changes are forensically managed and executed without errors and the additional overhead of wasted time.
XpedITe in COLOCATION DATA CENTRES
Having referenced the growing recognition of the benefits of improved customer service management by colocation operators, how does XpedITe deliver this?
RiT Tech’s XpedITe was designed to help address these challenges and the modular platform takes colocation data centre management to a new level. Not only does it interconnect the mix of devices and software systems through one federated management platform, but it allows colocation customers to monitor and manage their assets through an innovative Customer Portal. Furthermore, the platform automates workflows, improves operational efficiencies and maximises the use of available resources to ultimately reduce total cost of ownership.
Whether connecting to switches, servers and chillers or building management systems, configuration management databases and customer relationship management (CRM) software, XpedITe actively streamlines the sharing of information and processes. The platform seamlessly shares information across the whole business, giving those who require a window into operations an up-to-the-minute picture to consult. For example, XpedITe’s integration with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems empowers sales teams to communicate with confidence and track the progress of customer usage, installation and deployment orders and customer requests in real-time.
Daniel Simis, Head of Strategic Projects at Bezeq International (international colocation services provider)offered the following statement following his experiences of deploying and using XpedITe: “XpedITe’s application programming interface talks to our CRM, which means every action related to payment is tracked,” he said. “We know how space is used by customers and can bill them accurately today rather than having to chase money for any unseen and unexpected charges months down the line.”
From a customer perspective there is the ability to see the disposition of their assets in far greater detail and accuracy and far better understand the utilisation of the expensive resources they are paying for without the need to have staff based at the colocation site or visiting regularly.
This is perfect not only for large scale colocation deployments but also for ‘Edge’ and remote dark sites that may be more difficult or expensive to get to. The Customer Portal also allows customers to generate automated work orders based on their own specific set of bespoke rules accommodating both the specifics of the colocation site being used and their own organisation’s standards. These work orders can be generated automatically with sufficient detail to be used by third party installers and installation progress subsequently tracked through the portal.
XpedITe in Colocation – The CUSTOMER PORTAL
XpedITe is much more than just a means to make the daily operations of a data centre and the utilisation of the available resources far more efficient.
Using the XpedITe Customer Portal, colocation environments can leverage value added services for their customers. Fully customisable to meet tailored user experiences, this portal provides a panoramic porthole through which customers can observe and interact with their deployed digital real estate.
It can also be used by customers to flag faults and request any system changes or uplift in services. Firewall changes and back-up and restore services are easily administered through XpedITe and physical access, site visits, can be pre-approved and deconflicted through the portal.
In addition to negating the need to contact, query and wait for a response from facility or IT teams before placing or fulfilling an order, the XpedITe Customer Portal truly expedites communications with new and existing clients as well as improving the overall customer experience.
From an initial order through to the configuration, allocation and assignment of resources, automated updates and the management of moves, adds and changes, XpedITe ensures that staff are armed with all the data they need to relay accurate information to clients and to provide an unprecedented level of customer service.
XpedITe BENEFITS FOR COLOCATION OPERATORS
In the setting of a colocation data centre, XpedITe is a disruptive technology – an innovation that challenges conventional means of operating data centres and sets a new benchmark for best practice.
It is an intelligent solution to an extremely complex problem and has been designed to surpass expectations, providing an answer of greater value than alternative systems.
Indeed, when it comes to calculating potential return on investment, XpedITe represents a rare case, where one plus one really does make three. Such a sum may seem impossible but the addition of RiT Tech’s hi-tech toolkit to a colocation operation equates to three very distinct benefits.
1. Federating previously disparate legacy systems and environments to provide an accurate, real-time picture of operations which, when coupled with automated planning and provisioning tools, ensures that any unexpected issues are diminished and the performance of all assets is optimised, based on federated data sets and highly accurate real time information.
2. Seamlessly sharing this information across the whole business and all stakeholders, courtesy of unprecedented levels of integration and interoperability with software systems that extend to Customer Relationship Management tools, bolstered by a fully customisable Customer Portal, adds another telling tick to the tally.
3. Add to this the synching of systems and staff to provide a faster and more accurate service, – supported by improved communications and visibility of clients’ digital real estates, – completes the equation, with enhanced customer satisfaction being a proven formula for future sales and business growth.
XpedITe COLOCATION EXAMPLE
Bezeq International is the leading internet provider in Israel and is the only telecom player with direct ownership of a submarine cable connecting Israel to Europe, enabling the company to serve its customers via virtually unlimited international bandwidth.
Their estate consists of seven data centres across five sites in Israel which is continuously expanding.
What were their Challenges?
The lack of a fully operational and bespoke infrastructure management system was inhibiting improvements in operational delivery, customer service management and resource optimisation. What was needed was a truly integrated solution that could offer genuine management capabilities and effect operational efficiencies. Not one of the old style legacy DCIM tools, which were seen as very poor value, but rather one that is progressive and could integrate with all physical infrastructure across the estate, IT network and commercial systems like CRM. As a visionary business, Bezeq International cannot afford to let customers down but more than this feel they need to take a stand and provide a proactive approach to helping customers manage their own data centre assets. They see this as a key differentiator in the colocation sector.
Done manually, this is often done at the cost of profit margins – going that extra mile for customers can result in lost revenue through a lack of accurate visibility of data centre activities and asset leading to unnecessary resource overhead.
At the same time, Bezeq had a number of specific challenges that ranged from legacy cabling systems – the usual spaghetti cabling scenario to over provisioned assets and legacy business management tools. This led to a requirement for one single collaborative system to integrate them all and provide access to the vital management information that is needed to operate effectively. Bezeq International had tried a number of vendors and even employed their own developers to try to create an in-house system that would satisfy these requirements.
However, the skills and experience needed to achieve this were not available and became a limiting factor they decided instead to invest in the innovative XpedITe solution from RiT Tech, which has been specified and now customised to match their precise needs. No other DCIM vendor can provide the fully integrated and customised solution that XpedITe has delivered to Bezeq.
The brief was to design and implement a state-of-the-art DCIM system which managed not only the electro-mechanical systems but also integrated the IT infrastructure components and all of the associated business operation systems including BMS, CMDB and CRM - after all this is where data centres have to go in order to provide effective Service Management. No other provider has this complete solution – going beyond the traditional colocation operators’ offerings of Space, Power, Cooling and Security to introduce an enhanced service model above and beyond that of most traditional colocation operators. Added to this the customer portal enables Bezeq’s customers to have remote visibility of their own installations, including installed assets and connections as well as the ability to automatically generate and manage work orders.
Integration with Legacy Systems Provides an Essential Single Source of Truth.
No single data centre discipline has one system giving access to federated information which allows improvements in performance, functionality, quality and cost across the entire data centre ecosystem. But our next-generation DCIM tool has been integrated with existing operating tools including a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, enabling those selling data centre capacity to do so with a comprehensive and up-to-the-minute picture of available space and the power available to it.
- In addition to negating the need for sales staff to contact, query and wait for a response from a data centre manager before fulfilling an order, the software has expedited communications and improved the ability to accurately identify any additional space for new and existing clients.
- While the constantly refreshed record of remaining stock it affords is an obvious advantage of this software provider, Bezeq International is also benefiting from the tool’s detailed auditing of the stock being consumed. This knowledge ensures co-locations do not pass up on previously unclaimed revenue.
- An increase in productivity is another major boom for both supplier and consumer. Within a co-lo, XpedITe’s advanced algorithms problem-solve and plan, generating automated work orders that mean that technicians are deployed in a far more efficient manner.
- The new self-service portal gives customers an advanced means to directly communicate with data centre staff and the ability to quickly action everything from standard trouble tickets to requests relating to remote “hand and eye”, firewall changes, back-up and restore and physical access.
- As well as providing a panoramic porthole which clients can tailor with their own branding, the portal helps to manage assets in the racks and monitor the health of their digital real estate. This remote access offers a greater degree of control and connection to customers than was previously possible.
- A ticketing system diarises all approved visitors, preventing the disruption posed to co-lo staff of having to host multiple guests at any one time. External engineers, for example, are only granted access to the site following approval of their identification on the portal by a customer manager.
- Similarly, any changes in configuration – such as the addition or removal of servers – are automatically captured and reflected in the system.
- Another key feature is improved communication with clients. It is possible to send planned maintenance work notifications, server failure reports and trouble ticket updates directly from the system via SMS and e-mail.
- Weight management is an inevitable key issue in legacy facilities. Without an accurate inventory of assets and their weight, a problem may only come to light when the floor starts to move. An automated system that alerts operators when the weight goes above the tolerance threshold allows for space to be better managed and this risk avoided.
The Innovation Offered by XpedITe has Resulted in Improvements in Performance, Service Quality, Cost Structure and Customer Satisfaction for Bezeq.
No other data centre infrastructure management software offers the same level of integration capability. XpedITe integrates with multiple specialised legacy and business critical systems. The most important requirement for many data centre operators including Bezeq is to deliver one single central source of reliable and accurate data created using a federated DCIM system that maps all infrastructure components and seamlessly integrates with existing tools. XpedITe also introduces a customer portal for Bezeq's customers which allows them to manage their own data centre space and critical resources. But rather than attempting to represent the entire ecosystem, the key is the ability to supplement existing specialist capabilities – not replace them.
XpedITe is modular by design – a hi-tech toolset from which data centre operators can select the services they require and use to integrate existing solutions. To this end, the platform’s ever-expanding range of integration adaptions allow it to interact with commonly used devices, monitoring systems and management applications, reducing deployment time, disruption, risks and costs.
KPIs and metrics defined and used by Bezeq:
- Lost revenue recovered (Currently circa 2m, US Dollars)
- Clients’ reduction in work order costs (Currently 30%)
- Clients’ reduction in work order creation (Currently 70%)
- Number of customers supported (Currently 100+)
- Discovery of ‘new’ servers previously not recorded
- Discovery of un- recorded IT equipment space
- Discovery of racks previously not recorded
KPIs and metrics are important to all data centre operators in order to properly measure operational improvements and ultimately to better serve all customers but the main benefit to date has been the ability to maximise and achieve increased revenues through accurate information and insight.
Repeat business, increased orders for space or any of the many little things that may be routinely missed in a rapidly moving operational environment. This directly results in lost revenue and in this respect XpedITe clearly offers a demonstrable Return on Investment. This is in addition to creating a differentiated service offering to for customers and setting Bezeq apart from traditional colocation operators.
The pressures involved in running data centres are significant, but for Bezeq International and its colocation customers much of the analytical and administrative burden is now being lifted by XpedITe.
As a solution that evolves to keep stride with the evolution of the sector it serves, XpedITe is evidently delivering a tangible return on investment through visible efficiency in resource utilisation.