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How to Pick the Best Data Center Monitoring Tools for Your Business

Many organizations grow each year in business scope and footprint. When I say footprint, it’s not merely the size of the organization, but the number of devices, hardware, and other data center-related items. New technologies creep up every year, and many of those technologies live on data center hardware, servers, networking equipment, and even mobile devices. Keeping track of the systems within your organization’s data center can be tricky. Simply knowing where the device is and if it’s powered on isn’t enough information to get an accurate assessment of the systems' performance and health. Data center monitoring tools provide the administrator(s) with a clear view of what’s in the data center, the health of the systems, and their performance. There are many data center monitoring tools available depending on your needs, including networking monitoring, server monitoring, or virtual environment monitoring, and it’s important to considering both open-source and proprietary tools available.

Network Monitoring Tools for Data Centers

Networking can get complicated, even for the most seasoned network pros. Depending on the size of the network you operate and maintain, managing it without a dedicated monitoring tool can be overwhelming. Most large organizations will have multiple subnets, VLANs, and devices connected across the network fabric. Deploying a networking tool will go a long way in understanding what network is what, and whether or not there are any issues with your networking configuration. An effective networking tool for a data center is more than just a script that pings hosts or devices across the network. A good network tool monitors everything down to the packet. Areas in the network where throughput is crawling will be captured and reported within the GUI or through SMTP alerts. High error rates and slow response times will also be captured and reported. Network administrators can customize the views and reports that are fed to the GUI to their specifications. If networking is bad or broken, things will escalate quickly. The best network monitoring tools can help avoid this.

Data Center Server Monitoring Tools

Much of the work that a server or virtual machine monitoring tool does can be also accomplished using a good network monitoring tool. However, there are nuances within server/VM monitoring tools that go above and beyond the work of a network monitoring tool. For example, there are tools designed specifically to monitor your virtual environment. A virtual environment essentially contains the entire data center stack, from storage to networking to compute. This entire stack is more than just simple reachability and SNMP monitoring. It’s imperative to deploy a data center monitoring solution that understands things at a hypervisor level where transactions are brokered between the kernel and the guest OS. You need a tool that does more than tell you the lights are still green on your server. You need a tool that will alert you if your server light turns amber and why it’s amber, as well as how to turn it back to green. Some tools offer automation in their systems monitoring. For instance, if one of your servers is running high on CPU utilization, the tool would migrate that VM to a cluster with more available CPU for that VM. That kind of monitoring is helpful, especially when things go wrong in the middle of the night and you’re on call.

Application Monitoring Tools

Applications are the lifeblood of most organizations. Depending on the customer, some organizations may have to manage and monitor several different applications. Having a solid application performance monitoring (APM) tool in place is crucial to ensuring that your applications are running smoothly and the end users are happy. APM tools allow administrators to see up-to-date information on application usage, performance metrics, and any potential issues that may arise. If an application begins to deliver a poor end-user experience, you want to know about it as much in advance of the end user as possible. APM tools track everything from client CPU utilization, bandwidth consumption, and many other performance metrics. If you’re managing multiple applications in your environment, don’t leave out an APM tool—it might save you when you need it most.

Finding the Best Data Center Monitoring Tools for Your Needs

Ensure that you have one or all of these types of tools in your data center. It saves you time and money in the long run. Having a clear view of all aspects of your data center and their performance and health helps build confidence in the reliability of your systems and applications.
Greg Stuart
Greg is a technologist at heart. He has spent the last 20 years supporting various information technology projects in both the private and public sector.…
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