Vital Signs – The Importance of Knowing the Health of Your Data Center

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If you follow your doctor’s advice, you get a physical examination on a regular basis. As part of that exam, your doctor records your vital signs: blood pressure, breathing, pulse and temperature. These are the most basic indicators of your health and over time, establish a baseline of normal for you. If you change lifestyle you have something to measure results against.

Compare that to the services and equipment that you use to enable your business to be a technology-driven business. Do they have regularly scheduled exams where their vitals are taken? I tell my children they don’t need to brush “all” of their teeth, only the ones they want to keep. Like wise, you only need to monitor the equipment that keeps your business operating.

But how deeply should you monitor? Vital signs are not comprehensive but only the broadest indicators of health problems, yet they are taken for everyone. Let’s take the analogy a little further; vital signs seem to focus on answering the following questions:

  • How does blood flow through the body?
  • Is this person receiving enough of the most important required resource, oxygen?
  • Does this person seem to have any problems? For example: an infection.

Similarly, a basic approach to monitoring your data center would include the following:

  • How much information is flowing? (e.g. network interface throughput)
  • How available is the system? (e.g. ICMP ping, SNMP uptime)
  • Do we see any errors? (e.g. network drops, disk errors)

Vital signs can be taken with very little equipment, and likewise ICMP – ping -- and SNMP have been broadly supported for decades. ICMP and SNMP are adequate for most data center equipment.

Some don’t want to go to the Doctor's office, put their heads in the sand and hope it will be OK. Unfortunately, that can result in late diagnosis of a problem when earlier diagnosis would have enabled a faster and potentially life saving treatment.

So let me suggest, it’s a great time schedule regular physicals with your Doctor and it’s a great time to begin collecting vital signs on the data center equipment that you need to continue operating.

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