Mobile apps are having a transformative impact inside today’s data center by improving work order communications and collaboration. Such apps free data center workers from dashboard applications running on PCs, while also delivering them system status and actionable information. TE Connectivity recently released an Infrastructure Configuration Manager (ICM) app, called ICM Mobile, which links to the company’s ICM system.

I had an opportunity to get an overview of the app from Gene Malone, Emerging Technologies Product Manager at TE Connectivity, who spoke to me about how their new app can help data center workers be more productive and responsive to work orders.

Inside ICM Mobile

The charm of data center mobile apps like ICM Mobile is that, at the heart, they’re a mobile dashboard. A data center running the TE Connectivity system just downloads the ICM app to their workers’ iPhones and iPads. When a user logs into the app, they gain a view into the Information Transport System (ITS), including:

  • Work order selection listing
  • Work order synchronization
  • Work order/LED activation controls
  • Work order step selector/manager
  • Auto-detect completion indicators
  • Manual completion indicators
  • Response attachment handling
  • Incident response logging

Take a look at the following video demonstration of ICM Mobile, provided by TE Connectivity:

Manage work orders from the data center floor

The old way of managing work orders in some parts of the data center world was with paper and a clipboard. With ICM Mobile, data center staff can manage the entire work order process directly from the app on their iPhone or iPad. When a data center technician signs into ICM Mobile, their work orders appear with a percentage complete beside the work order. This can help prevent the duplicate entry of data. It also has benefits for decentralized data center management and incident response, which can be helpful for larger data center operations or colocation centers. Figure A shows work orders as they appear in ICM Mobile:
Figure A

Work order list in ICM Mobile.

The ICM Mobile app breaks down work order completion as follows:

  1. Each work order includes a start and end date
  2. Tap Start/Stop to flash port LEDs on managed port Connects and Disconnects (this step requires enabling the ICM server agent)
  3. Add notes and steps as needed to document an audit trail for the specified work order
  4. Connect and disconnect steps display From and To ports with color coded step types for Connect, Disconnect, and General
  5. Tap the grey circle to mark the general step as complete (a checkmark will appear beside a completed step)

Figure B shows work order steps as they appear in ICM Mobile:
Figure B

Work order steps in ICM Mobile.

Increasing responsiveness and productivity

The ICM Mobile app represents a step ahead in how the business of data center management and operations is traditionally conducted, especially in colocation centers. For example, take the case of using the app to manage subcontractors. The data center staff member tasked to escort the subcontractor would have access to the work order via ICM Mobile on their iPad or iPhone. They could manage the entire work order on the data center floor, without having to return to a PC to update its progress.

ICM Mobile also has configurable alarms. Depending on the data center operations policies and procedures, alarms can be sent directly to a mobile device. Figure C shows an example of alarms in ICM Mobile:
Figure C

Alarms in ICM Mobile.

Another way ICM Mobile helps with incident response is that it enables users to capture notes directly in the app while working through the issue, and the notes are logged against the work order ticket opened for the incident. Data center staff can also take pictures of the local area where the incident occurred. These pictures are especially useful in a colocation center and just as part of the work order reporting and overall audit trail that needs to be captured.

ICM Mobile has an online and offline mode. If a user is in a part of the data center without Wi-Fi or LTE, they can continue working and sync the app back with the ICM system when they get a clear signal.

Final thoughts

Unfortunately, neither TechRepublic nor TE Connectivity would let me loose in a data center to put this app through its paces. However, it’s easy to see from my overview that ICM Mobile and other apps that bring work order management, incident response tools, and alarms directly to a data center technician are a definite productivity boost in an industry where SLAs count.