A leading data storage manufacturer leverages innovative application to accurately assess data center capacity with real-time utilization numbers.


A leading data storage manufacturer was faced with a corporate initiative to consolidate and amortize data center space across the enterprise. The company did not have an accurate view into actual data center utilization, requiring an assessment of the available storage capacity in its 17,000 computer cabinets spread across the multiple facilities. Their existing data storage assessment process was extremely manual and time-consuming, and quarterly audits had revealed the process was only achieving a 70% accuracy rate. Realizing this assessment could take close to a year to complete, WEI was enlisted to assist in the assessment process.


WEI recognized an opportunity to greatly improve the reliability and efficiency of the assessment process with an application. Working closely with the company to clearly understand their environment and their existing process, WEI developed a unique application called Build-A-Cab with the capability to map out each data center environment digitally. This application enables a technician to accurately gauge storage capacity in minutes by entering in the dimensions, attributes and timeline of each tile on a tablet device. Data entered into the Build-A-Cab application automatically feeds into the company’s Data Center Information Manager (DCIM) application.


The data storage manufacturer was able to survey three massive data center facilities and 17,000 cabinets in 45 days instead of a year—saving time and substantial labor costs.

WEI took the application further by building a web interface that provides a visual view of data center utilization company-wide. Business unit managers and data center managers could quickly identify available space and robust reporting features enabled them to make better business decisions based on real-time utilization numbers.

“This custom Build-A-Cab application we developed showcases our distinctive strengths as a collaborative IT solutions provider,” said Dave Fafel, Chief Architect of WEI. “We’re agile enough and have the depth and breadth of technical talent to develop creative, custom technology solutions to solve our customers’ challenges and then implement them in-house. At WEI, we don’t just resell solutions, we go further. We add value and services to complement the products we sell. Based upon our close working relationship with the customer, we understood the challenges they faced surveying their data centers and addressed the issue in an unexpected, yet elegant way.”


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Well, the customer approached us to actually bring an army of people into their facility. They have a very large facility. This was actually a purpose built application for one specific customer. And they approached us to bring in an army of people and to determine the available capacity in their very large data center environment, how much free space was there not only on the floor tiles but also within the cabinets, and to try and get within 10% of what the available space was.


Instead, we decided that there had to be a better way to collect this information than through a manual clipboard type of process. While we were all for selling services to this customer, what we didn't want to do was to do something that we couldn't record systemically and then be able to report on and manipulate data with. So we had to develop an application to actually audit their environment. And that's what Build-A-Cab turned out to be.


The problem the customer faced was they had a 350,000 square foot data center facility with a very dynamic environment. Equipment moving in, equipment moving out constantly. And while they kept good track of the equipment moving in and moving out, they were never quite sure where it was in the building. And so they were never really positive as to how much available capacity they had at any given moment, and it was very important for them to understand that.


The application initially was designed to collect capacity information. We called it Build-A-Cab, because that's essentially what you do with the application. You build a cabinet while standing in front of that. You virtually build a cabinet with all of the devices that you might use in that cabinet, such as servers, network gear, power equipment, storage equipment, and then free space or consumed space for other devices in that cabinet.


The application actually allows you to drag and drop different devices of different sizes in the cabinet to build a graphical representation of an actual cabinet that you might be standing in front of. For our purposes, we need to be able to create that graphical representation of actual cabinets in our customers' data center environments.


So the application itself, it's worked on HTML5 ... which makes it very portable so you can use it on multiple devices. IOS devices, Android, even your laptop. It's just a web application that sits behind a [SQL 00:02:47] database. The SQL database itself can then be exported to any tool that uses SQL, including DCIM solutions. So the application itself can then work to your advantage as far as an extension of your DCIM solution overall.


Build-A-Cab was designed based on the requirements of that specific data collection project. And from there, we continue to add features as the customer wanted to add more information to be collected. And so not only did we get within 10% of the available space that they had ... that they wanted us to. This new consumption. But we actually got to 100% of the available space reported, and were able to add on other attributes such as serial numbers, make, model, device types, unusable spaces. And then we were able to actually feed other upstream DCIM, data center information management schools, with the data that we collected through our auditing portion of Build-A-Cab.


The benefits of enterprise data center environments is the tool's ability to report on asset information such as age, for instance. An environment may have multiple servers that are all starting to either expire on service contracts, or maybe are starting to bump up against their refresh cycle and need to be replaced.


The tool allows you to collect this data and then report it back to your environment in any way that you might need to sort the data, such as by age of asset, as well as by type of asset.


One of the major benefits of this is anybody who manages a data center can now make decisions about the cost. Power space cooling in a data center is huge. Having this tool, you can very quickly visualize as to how you can consolidate. You can use that data to kind of mock what your data center will look like. Using the app, you save a lot of time.


And you can use less resources, so you save money in the long run. You don't need as many people anymore. You don't need as much time anymore. You can literally inventory your data center within a day.


WEI app development is designing tools to solve customer specific problems. These are typically unique problems for which an off-the-shelf software package won't solve. We're understanding what our customer's problems are, and then designing tools to solve those problems, or to compliment other tools that they have in their environment today.



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