With the tech industry in turmoil and an ongoing recession forcing cutbacks, many sysadmins and engineers are struggling to efficiently manage their data center infrastructure. Overworked admins are more likely to make mistakes and issues are more likely to fall between the cracks, making the enterprise network less resilient. In the current economy, businesses can’t afford to lose revenue due to data center outages, and that’s why it’s crucial to invest in the tools teams need to efficiently manage and monitor remote infrastructure.
This blog explains how to streamline remote data center management using technologies like out-of-band (OOB) management, automation, orchestration, and AIOps to ensure network resiliency.
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How to streamline remote data center management
Organizations commonly deploy redundant internet connections at their data centers to provide network failover, ensuring business continuity in case the primary ISP suffers an outage. However, if the data center WAN or LAN goes down due to an equipment failure, configuration mistake, or security breach, network failover won’t help admins solve the problem. If remote data center devices are unable to get an IP address, then they’ll be unreachable on the production network, leaving remote teams without a way to diagnose and fix the issue. That means expensive truck rolls or on-site managed services, plus the revenue and reputation costs of extended downtime.
What’s needed to ensure business continuity and reduce the cost of outages is an out-of-band (OOB) management network that doesn’t rely on any production infrastructure. The most efficient way to accomplish this is with Gen 3 OOB serial consoles. These systems include redundant network interfaces – often using cellular – to ensure continuous remote access even if the production ISP or MPLS link goes down. An OOB serial console directly connects to data center infrastructure devices via the serial port, which means remote admins can access and manage them without an IP address. The result is that remote data center management teams can diagnose and fix problems without traveling on-site, saving money on recovery costs as well as reducing the duration and business impact of outages.
Plus, an OOB management network can be used to execute resource-intensive automation and orchestration workflows without using valuable MPLS bandwidth or affecting production network performance. Gen 3 serial consoles are vendor-neutral and support the use of third-party automation scripts and playbooks, giving remote data center teams a centralized orchestration platform for more streamlined infrastructure and network management.
Infrastructure and network automation
Staff cutbacks have left data center teams stretched paper-thin, and reduced budgets mean they’re being asked to do more with less. When admins are overworked with many tedious, manual tasks, they’re more likely to make mistakes. These mistakes are a major cybersecurity threat, with Microsoft estimating that up to 80% of ransomware attacks are caused by misconfigured devices, applications, and security systems.
Automation helps remediate human error by taking over the repetitive, tedious workflows that computers are best at, leaving admins and engineers free to handle the creative, intuitive work that only humans can accomplish. For example, teams can use infrastructure as code (IaC) and zero touch provisioning (ZTP) to turn data center device configurations into software scripts that are deployed and executed automatically. Automated configuration management tools can then monitor these devices for changes that might introduce a security vulnerability and then automatically roll-back to the last known good configuration. Teams can also use software-defined networking (SDN) and software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) to automate traffic management and optimization, load balancing, access control list (ACL) updates, and other network management workflows.
Automation makes it possible for small network operation centers (NOCs) and data center teams to efficiently control large and distributed enterprise deployments. While network automation hasn’t quite caught up to infrastructure automation in terms of adoption and tool maturity, the use of vendor-neutral devices and platforms allows teams to use their existing IaC and configuration management tools to deploy and control network devices like routers, switches, load balancers, and security appliances. Vendor-neutral solutions also make it easier to implement centralized orchestration to manage automation workflows across the entire network architecture.
Automation’s goal is to streamline data center management, but when it’s not handled correctly, it can easily wind up overcomplicating things instead. If admins aren’t monitoring their automated workflows, there could be changes occurring without any human oversight, leading to potential security risks and making it harder to perform root-cause analysis (RCA) when issues arise. In addition, without an organized, centralized repository for network automation scripts and configurations, engineers could end up duplicating each other’s work and negating any productivity gains. Plus, having a fragmented automation architecture makes it impossible for admins and security analysts to holistically monitor and manage the enterprise network.
Centralized orchestration provides a single platform from which to deploy, monitor, and manage automation across data center deployments and distributed network architectures. A data center infrastructure orchestration platform should include:
- ⮕ Source code version control – A centralized repository for automation scripts that tracks changes and acts as a single source of truth for the entire automated infrastructure.
- ⮕ Vendor-neutral orchestrator – A tool that controls all of the automated workflows in a data center deployment, essentially automating the automation.
- ⮕Visibility & analytics – Dashboards where admins can monitor automated workflows, view current device health and network performance, and gain insights from their AIOps and big data tools.
To ensure optimal coverage and efficiency, the source code repository must be compatible with the chosen scripting language(s), the orchestrator must support any IaC playbooks, and the visibility tools must be able to hook into all systems, applications, and devices in the data center. That means the orchestration platform should be vendor-neutral.
Data center infrastructure, and the platforms used to monitor and manage it, all generate a lot of logs. The data contained in these logs can provide valuable insights about the health, performance, and security of that infrastructure, but only if teams have the ability to collect and analyze it. Unfortunately, human beings aren’t very adept at parsing vast quantities of data to spot and predict patterns. However, humans have designed artificial intelligence to pick up the slack.
Artificial intelligence for IT operations – or AIOps – uses technologies like machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to analyze logs from data centers and network infrastructure. AIOps pulls data from sources such as monitoring and orchestration platforms, environmental monitoring sensors, and firewall logs, then utilizes that data to provide business insights, predict future outcomes, and make decisions to solve problems.
AIOps is a relatively new technology and as such its capabilities continue to evolve. However, data center teams are currently using AIOps for things like enhanced threat modeling, automatic root cause analysis, and intelligent performance monitoring. For overworked and understaffed data center teams, AIOps essentially acts as an extra brain devoted to the monitoring and analysis of automated infrastructure.
Streamlining remote data center management with ZPE Systems
A resilient enterprise network uses out-of-band (OOB) management, automation, orchestration, and AIOps to streamline remote data center management and ensure business continuity. The backbone of such an architecture is vendor-neutral solutions, such as the Nodegrid platform from ZPE Systems. Nodegrid serial consoles provide Gen 3 OOB management with complete vendor freedom, so you can control any device, deploy your choice of automation scripts and playbooks, host third-party security and AIOps solutions, and unify the management of all of the above with a single orchestration platform.
Ready to learn more about data center management?
To learn more about remote data center management with Nodegrid, contact ZPE Systems today.