A regular reader of the PAOSS blog recently wrote, “I follow with passion your blog,latest post about Inventory are great [Ed. the reader is talking about this post about LNI and PNI and this one about Inventory vs Asset vs CMDB Management]. I ask you if possible have a post on Inside Plant vs Outside Plant vs Virtual network creation… we usually use CAD based tool for Inside Plant design both for TLC equipment, cabling, cross connection, Distribution Frame, rooms, virtual rooms, rows structure,etc but also for power, conditioning, lighfiring,etc. We also use Network Inventory for Datacenter and server farm modelling.Outside Plant typically deals with GIS tool for cabling infrastructure. And now also virtualizzation of Network is coming with NFV and SDN. What do you think about?”
In the post about Inventory vs Asset vs CMDB, we used the following Venn Diagram:
Unfortunately, there’s another circle that’s not shown on this diagram, but should be – the DCIM (Data Centre Infrastructure Management) circle. The overlaps between OSS and DCIM partially answer the questions above. We wrote a 5 part series on DCIM back in 2014 (part one, two, three, four, five), so perhaps it’s time for a re-visit.
The last of those five posts even included another Venn Diagram, as follows:
Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) shares much of its DNA with OSS, but also has a number of unique differences.
- IT and network device / inventory management
- CSPs and Data Centres tend to have many Enterprise customers, and therefore a need to align with their IT service and life-cycle management (ITIL / ITSM) methodologies
- Electronic data collection and storage to support fulfillment and assurance workflows
- Analytics and operational decision support
- Planning and design tools
- Predictive modelling
- Process and change management
- Capacity planning, resource allocation and provisioning
Differences (ie what Data Centres have that traditional CSP networks don’t):
- Facilities / Building Management Systems (FMS/BMS)
- Energy / Power management
- Environment and heat management (HVAC) including management of hot/cold zones
- Data Centres tend to have less outside plant or inter-site connectivity* (ie most power and network connectivity tends to reside within the Data Centres)
- However, Data Centre cable management have some slight differences. Network links are more likely to be managed within 3D spatial systems (x, y and height) if at all, rather than the 2D (x and y coordinates) typically plotted by most OSS inventory via GIS (Geographical Information Systems) or CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawings. Data Centre cables tend to be run in spatially-dense above-rack or below-floor trayways. By comparison, cables between sites tends to be less dense and at a fairly consistent height (eg a standard depth underground or a standard height when mounted on towers/poles aboveground)
- Alternatively, DCs may manage spatial infrastructure through naming conventions such as rooms, rack-rows, racks, rack-position rather than 3D spatial systems
- Data Centres have traditionally had a higher proportion of virtualised assets than traditional CSPs, although that is now changing with the operator network embracing network virtualisation
So let’s now look at how it “might” all hang together (noting that each company is likely to be different depending on their systems and processes):
- DCIM manages facilities, building, power / PLCs and heating/cooling/HVAC
- PNI manages physical connectivity (between sites and within the DC) as it can generally manage connectivity to physical ports on patch-panels / frames and physical devices (eg switches and routers) inside the DC. PNI also handles splicing and patching. PNI tools can generally also manage power cabling, although not everyone uses PNI for this
- LNI (in conjunction with EMS [Element Management Systems] and virtual resource managers) will tend to manage the virtual / logical networks including resource management and orchestration
- LNI will also tend to provide topological views of the network (often point-to-point links between physical/logical ports rather than the cable routes shown in PNI). LNI may also potentially include rack layouts and other forms of network visualisation. However, LNI tends to only partially show spatial presentation of the data (eg physical locations of “circuit” end-points rather than spatial location of all racks and equipment in 3D)
- Related compute / storage infrastructure could be managed by DCIM, LNI, VIM, etc
- And any of this could be cross-referenced as assets in the Asset Management System and/or Configuration Management Database (CMDB)
I can see that CAD might still be required for trayway, HVAC ducting, etc because PNI isn’t really designed with this in mind in 3D.
Having said that, I’d probably still attempt to get all connectivity and support designed into a spatial visualisation tool like PNI rather than CAD. Afterall, connectivity of any type can be modelled as nodes and arcs (same as PNI). It’s just that ducting tends to have a greater 3D heft than a single line / arc of a typical comms cable.
Why is it important to have this data in a single spatial system rather than CAD? Well, I figure it should help future augmented reality (AR) use-cases like the ones described in the link.
So here’s the updated diagram:
* There are of course multi-site DC organisations that have links between their sites, but they tend to outsource their long-haul network links to traditional carriers.