A short while ago, I compiled a list of five apps for better data center management but, while compiling that list, I came across a sixth choice that stood out from the others. Avocent Data Center Planner, from Emerson Network Power, includes all the features you need to lay out your data center; plan for power, cooling, and other resource usage; and keep an inventory of all of your devices.

Product information

  • Title: Avocent Data Center Planner
  • Author: Emerson Network Power
  • Supported OS: Windows Server 2003 or greater (does not work on Windows client versions), Red Hat Linux for server side; Modern versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer (possibly other browsers as well) for the web client
  • Price: $500 US per rack, diminishing with bulk purchases; licenses are perpetual; additional support and training available

Laying out the data center

Data Center Planner starts out with a simple question: what is the plan size? Give yourself a little extra room, though, because you’ll want to draw in the doors and windows along the edges of the room. Following that, objects such as racks, PDUs, and other infrastructure can be found within the Devices menu and simply dropped into the room.

Figure A

Setting up the racks is just as easy. First, double-click on the rack on the floor plan screen to bring up the rack view. The Devices menu contains thousands of rack-mounted devices such as servers, switches, storage devices, and backup batteries that can also be dropped into the rack screen.

Figure B

Configuring devices

Devices in the racks are included within your inventory and can be viewed from the inventory menu. When you delete a device from a rack, Data Center Planner asks if the device should remain in your inventory or be permanently deleted. You can use this feature to move devices from rack to rack, or keep a device in your inventory during the time it is in storage.

Figure C

Once your devices are all loaded into the racks, you can click on a device to zoom into it and look at the available ports and connections. Each connection on a device – be it network, electrical, or all the way down to RS-232 – is able to be connected to another device in the rack. The Connections screen is accessed from the left menu or by right-clicking on any device. Within this screen, you can click on a port on a device on the left and a port on a device on the right and join those two together.

Figure D

Resource tracking

By joining devices together, you also begin to accumulate usage of the “networking” resource. Like other resources, including power, cooling, and space, the software keeps real-time statistics of the number of ports, watts, square footage, and rack units that your data center or individual racks are capable of supporting as well as what they are each using. By properly laying out your data center, you can develop a realistic simulation within Data Center Planner that can assist in future expansion, troubleshooting problems, and infrastructure improvements.

Bottom line

Just about any data center administrator or manager will benefit from a fully featured data center planning application and Avocent Data Center Planner from Emerson Network Power does not disappoint. While expensive, a data center that is not running at its peak – or worse, not running at all – is going to lose $500 per rack pretty quickly. Using this software can assist in keeping data center functioning at peak performance by ensuring that the layout, resource balancing, and inventory are kept up to date and at their ideal levels.

To help you develop the best data center strategies for your organization, ZDNet and TechRepublic pulled together this collection of the latest information, analysis, perspective, and advice. (Download)

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