Hot summer reads: From systems management to server hardware

The summer sun has a way of distracting us from daily routines. For some, it’s the perfect time to take a vacation. For others, it’s a great opportunity to get some serious work done without all the day-to-day distractions. Whatever your style, chances are you may have missed a few of these essential tips. They cover a range of topics, from buying an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) to a mainframe expert’s analysis of the IBM and zPrime lawsuit. Before the weather turns colder, shake off your vacation slump and take another look at our best content from this summer. We’ve broken it down into three categories—systems management tools and analysis, data center server hardware and systems, and data center planning—to help you find what you are looking for. Whether you were out catching some rays or had your head buried deep in a summer project, these hot topics are worth catching up on.

Table of contents:

Data center systems management tools and analysis

Systems management is undoubtedly one of the most difficult and time-consuming tasks for data center administrators. The increasing adoption of virtualization and cloud computing technologies can lead to performance and efficiency gains for organizations, but can also come with new management challenges. Luckily, IT professionals can turn to a variety of systems management tools to monitor, manage and test equipment in their environment. It’s no surprise that some of our most popular content offers tips on how professionals can use systems management tools to more effectively and efficiently run their data centers and confront the challenges that new technologies present.

Setting up Nagios for Windows Server monitoring
Nagios is one of the most popular open source systems management tools available. It can dramatically simplify network monitoring, allowing administrators to identify and correct problems before they lead to critical failures. However, first-time users can find it difficult to set up. This tip provides step-by-step instructions for professionals looking to configure a Nagios server and use the check_nt command to monitor a Windows environment.

Server benchmark tools and stress testing
Server benchmarking and stress testing is an important practice when deploying new systems or implementing significant changes. Stress, or load, testing can identify problems and instability before a system is introduced into a production environment. There are several systems management tools that administrators can use to perform server stress testing, but there is no one tool that will meet all performance testing needs. This tip explains the important role of benchmarking and stress testing, and lists several tools professionals can use.

State of the Data Center: 2011
In our Data Center Decisions: 2011 survey, we asked more than 1,000 IT professionals what type of systems management challenges they faced in their data centers and what tools they turned to. Our State of the Data Center: 2011 special report series analyzes the results of that survey, providing an in-depth look into data center technology and systems management tactics used today. This special report reveals trends and surprises about the state of IT operations across many industries.

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Expert advice on data center systems and server hardware

IT purchasing decisions are always tough. Often, technology needs and the financial resources to meet those needs don’t go hand-in-hand, leaving IT professionals with a difficult balancing act. Deciding when it is finally time for new server hardware, or trying to decide on what UPS unit best fits the organization’s needs, are choices many administrators have struggled with. While we can’t lift budget constraints, these tips can serve as critical resources to help you decide when and how to spend the money that is available to maximize return on investment when it comes to data center systems and server hardware.

When is server hardware too old?
It’s a question that countless IT professionals have struggled with. Should you invest in new server hardware, purchase upgrades or just make do with the current systems? Technology is still driving ahead at a fast pace, with today’s servers lasting longer than ever. Clustering technology and live migration mean older severs can handle workloads without the increased risk of downtime. However, there are still good reasons to consider investing in new server hardware. New severs can handle more virtual machines (VMs) and, in some cases, are more energy efficient. The key is weighing the pros and cons to determine when it is time for a server hardware refresh.

Choosing UPS systems for the data center
A reliable UPS is a critical part of any data center. UPS systems protect server hardware and critical applications, but choosing one with the right features and load capacity can be difficult. Administrators must consider a variety of factors, including efficiency ratings, bypass control capabilities, as well as management and monitoring features. This buying guide includes everything small to mid-size enterprises need to know about selecting and purchasing a UPS for their data centers, including a side-by-side comparison of six popular UPS units in the 10 kVA to 50 kVA load range.

What the IBM and Neon settlement means for mainframes
When Neon Enterprise Software introduced zPrime in June 2009, it presented what seemed like a golden opportunity for mainframe users to save thousands of dollars by offloading a variety of workloads onto mainframe specially engines. Then the legal war began, with IBM claiming that the use of zPrime violated its customer agreement. For nearly two years, the companies battled through the courts. In this tip, our mainframe expert offers his opinion on the result of the IBM and Neon Software lawsuit and what the settlement means for the future of mainframes.

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Improving data center planning

An IT department that spends all its time reacting to emergencies to keep systems running often overlooks one of its most important responsibilities–data center planning. But, data center planning–whether it be planning a facilities addition or expansion, testing a disaster recovery solution or just basic network infrastructure planning–is often more difficult than it sounds. To make things more complicated, the majority of long-term data center planning requires an IT and facilities collaboration. However, without proper planning, administrators can find themselves faced with serious power, cooling, reliability and other infrastructure problems. These popular tips all offer advice on how IT professionals can improve their data center planning and, hopefully, avoid those problems.

The causes and costs of data center system downtime
Designing an effective disaster recovery solution begins by understanding why downtime occurs. It may not be possible to avoid all downtime, but if administrators know the causes, then develop systems and protocols to address those causes, unnecessary downtime can be curtailed. Testing a disaster recovery strategy once it is in place is also an important part of data center planning. In this Q&A, the SearchDataCenter.com Advisory Board members share their experiences with data center downtime and offer advice for how to prevent it.

Data center design standards for cabinet and floor loading
Higher densities–brought about by the proliferation of smaller form factor servers–are making floor loading an important consideration in data center planning. IT professionals that don’t plan for future expansion and communicate anticipated needs can find themselves without the floor capacity to support their equipment cabinets. This tip can help professionals better understand floor-loading concerns by explaining the relationship between aisle widths, cabinet footprints and floor capacity. It is a must read for any IT professional considering a build, relocation or addition.

Network infrastructure planning for a virtual environment
Virtualization has many benefits, but simplifying network infrastructure planning is not one of them. Multiple VMs on one physical host can lead to I/O conflicts and network bandwidth problems. Data center planning is essential to prevent network traffic jams that can occur if infrastructure is not sized correctly. However, this tip also explains why it isn’t necessary to purchase the most expensive high-end network hardware, and why that step might not solve network problems anyway.

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Experts who contributed to this must-read content