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29 August, 2017

Data Center Management powered by CFD

6SigmaAccess is a glimpse of the future. It’s the first important link between today’s data center management and the efficient, collaborative and customer centric tool of the future. It’s our first, web-based software that helps remove departmental silos, and encourages communication – to bridge the engineering gap by creating direct lines of communication between IT and Facilities. 

Motivation for this Development 

Data center owners/operators are investing heavily in products that help streamline their process and acquire data to make decisions to improve current conditions. For any system to work, automated or not, it’s important that the owner/operator knows the impact (on efficiency, capacity and resilience) of any potential change related to IT or infrastructure prior to making any changes. This is where engineering simulation or CFD is very important, as it can predict future outcomes using today’s data. 

Managing and maintaining data center performance often falls on the shoulders of the data center engineering teams. Our vision at Future Facilities has always been to solve the tough problems related to data center engineering and we have successfully accomplished this over the years with engineering tools like 6SigmaRoom, 6SigmaRoomLite and 6SigmaFM. However, we have always felt that we could do more, and get closer to solving the problems at the onset of IT deployment process. This meant that we had to connect with the teams responsible for deploying IT equipment using power, space and cooling metrics. The siloed operations between IT and Facilities teams inevitably leads to degradation of data center performance. The reason is because there is a mismatch between varying IT in a fixed infrastructure - IT equipment power, space and cooling requirements are different from one vendor to the other, which impacts the cooling system and change the data center’s performance. This was the primary motivation behind the creation of 6SigmaAccess.

The critical customer requirements in the initial creation of 6SigmaAccess were (but not limited to): 

  • Clear visibility of what customers/IT departments want, and when they deploy, so they can see the plan as it is rolled out.
  • Consistent, formal and effective ways to communicate with IT managers - the proactive approach to deal with incoming change requests.
  • Control of IT asset management with a collaborative planning in the data center.
  • Up-to-date information about the power and cooling requirements to help with business planning and compliance.

By working closely with our customers, we designed 6SigmaAccess around the four key benefits: 

  • Multi-user Design: Allow multiple users to work on the same model simultaneously, while updating models in real-time to minimize conflicts.
  • Secure & Web-Based: Load a 3D model of the data center to visualize your assets in a secure web-based platform.
  • Intelligent Deployments: Deploy IT based on power, space and cooling data received from the CFD model, giving the user immediate feedback on resource availability to make better decisions. 
  • Assistive Decision Making: Leverage CFD technology to push all the proposed IT changes into 6SigmaFM to evaluate proposed IT layouts that can have a major impact on capacity, efficiency and resiliency of the data center, before making actual physical deployments. 

Data Model & Workflow

Because 6SigmaRoom/FM and Access share the same data model, we extracted a version of the model that is specifically needed by IT operations that not only has the relevant information but is also fast enough to load in a browser. 6SigmaAccess shows the cabinets and IT, and corresponding data (space, installed power, available cooling etc.), with CRAC/Hs, PDUs, and columns merely as placeholders. 

The critical data here is the ‘available cooling’ that is extracted from the detailed 6SigmaFM model of the data center, that contains all the necessary objects and details (racks, IT, grilles, PDUs, ACUs etc. for an accurate prediction). 

Figure 1: 6SigmaFM model with all the details necessary for accurate CFD simulation

 

Figure 2: 6SigmaAccess with all the details necessary for IT planning and deployment

 

Before installing cabinets or IT, the user can simply search for IT equipment (within the model or from the 6SigmaFM library) or create simple dashboards that show power, space, cooling and IT within the data center. 

Figure 3: Dashboard view of installed IT equipment

Figure 4: Extracted 'Available Cooling' data from 6SigmaFM

 

Once the user has decided the right location within a cabinet, then he/she can search for the appropriate item from extensive library. After IT has been selected and deployed, the software can then show which cabinets have the all the resources available and which ones don’t.

Figure 5: SmartDeploy using power, space and cooling (airflow)

 

When the appropriate cabinets and IT equipment are deployed, the user can submit the changes to 6SigmaFM for CFD simulation. The change automatically prompts the 6SigmaFM user and updates the model with all the appropriate changes. The 6SigmaFM user can also pull in live data to ensure the model has the right power & temperature data. Once all the data is updated, a simulation can be performed to ensure that the proposed deployment works from a performance, capacity and resilience standpoint.

What's Next?

We are quite excited about providing toolsets for both IT planning and facility management. We realize that with our toolsets, we can deliver on our vision, which is a better future for your data center. Over the next year, we are planning to enhance the features in 6SigmaAccess to accommodate several data center management needs such as the power network, custom reports and dashboards, live power/temperature visualization, etc. In time, we plan to move in the VR/AR space and combine CFD, planning, and machine learning.


Blog written by Akhil Docca, Corporate Marketing & Product Strategy Manager

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