The swift proliferation of complex and highly specialized data center systems has led to the equally swift proliferation of management tools. It’s not uncommon for IT organizations to have dozens of tools to control dozens of systems, with scant integration and coordination among them.
“IT departments can get very specialized and siloed,” says Mona Hrapkowicz, data center software specialist at Intel. “But in today’s day and age, you can’t be myopic and focus on one piece of the data center. You must focus on the business holistically, and that requires more integration and orchestration—not just with the tools, but with people and processes.”
The promise of a single pane of glass—an all-in-one tool for systems administration—has emerged as a potential panacea. But does it exist today?
The need for unified management
According to Joe Martin, consulting systems engineer for Cisco, companies have been struggling with the sheer volume of management tools and a lack of visibility across data center systems.
“Without a holistic view of the entire environment, how can you diagnose problems? How can you orchestrate and automate at a higher level?” Martin opines. “Companies want as few tools as possible to manage their environment, and they want these tools to work well with one another.”
- Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have enabled such integration, facilitating policy-driven control and automation among different elements of an infrastructure.
- Policies can now be implemented at the application layer that dictate how the underlying infrastructure behaves in support of each application.
“Vendors like Cisco, Microsoft, and Intel have developed APIs that expose the hardware, software, and processing layers of the environment,” says Vijay Tewari, cloud platform program manager for Microsoft, “allowing each system to be managed individually, but in a way that is coordinated with other systems.”
He points to Microsoft System Center and the Intel® Xeon® processor-based Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS®) as a prime example.
- Cisco UCS Manager provides unified, policy-based management of Cisco UCS servers and fabric components.
- Cisco UCS Director extends that control and automation to storage and virtual environments.
- Both work in concert with Microsoft System Center.
“The integration between Microsoft System Center and Cisco UCS allows exceptional service management, automation, monitoring, and command and control—for hardware and software, in both bare-metal and virtual environments,” Tewari claims. “This is possible because of the deep APIs on both sides.”
So, is the single pane of glass a myth or a reality? Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
“There is no single pane of glass for every conceivable function of an IT environment,” notes Mark Balch, director of product management for unified computing at Cisco. “But we do provide a single pane of glass for infrastructure management that works hand-in-hand with Microsoft’s single tool for managing the software and application layer.”
“There is more integration, more visibility, and more coordination among management tools than ever before,” says Tewari. “And that allows organizations to simplify their IT operations and make better use of their data.”
“We’ve made huge strides,” Hrapkowicz adds. “The joint innovation and engineering between Cisco, Microsoft, and Intel have dramatically reduced the complexity of data center management while increasing the support for mission-critical applications and hybrid cloud deployments.”