April 18, 2012

When facility insufficiencies began creating unacceptable risks in National Bank of Abu Dhabi's (NBAD) data center, it forced the United Arab Emirates-based institution to seek a next-generation solution. "By mid- 2009 circuit breakers were tripping frequently, our PDUs [power distribution units] weren't intelligent, we lacked automated alerts and we were monitoring data center temperatures manually," explains Ayman Al-Qudsi, data center group leader at NBAD (US$70 billion in assets). "Additionally, we couldn't limit physical access to the data center because we didn't have secure, encrypted tools for managing it remotely."

Late in 2009 the data center team identified five vendors with appropriate solutions. According to Al-Qudsi, the capabilities of Columbus, Ohio-based Emerson Network Power's Avocent (Huntsville, Ala.) division stood out. "The Avocent KVM [keyboard, video, mouse] switch appliances could be accessed remotely from anywhere in the world and were integrated with Microsoft [Redmond, Wash.] Active Directory. This was unique," he notes.

"Plus," Al-Qudsi continues, "with the Avocent DSView tool, we could do everything we wanted from one console outside the data center." This included viewing racks, and their components, or drilling down to a specific server to see its components, he says. And, in combination with the Avocent MergePoint Server Process Managers, a server could, with one click, be accessed and managed at the hardware level. In addition, "The solution was scalable and highly available, allowing us to operate it independently from any of our three data centers, even if two of the data centers were down," Al-Qudsi adds.

When deployment began in early 2011, equipment was staged outside the data center, relates Al-Qudsi, who explains that the migration was like "open heart surgery" and "no downtime was accepted." A local Emerson partner installed the wiring, KVM appliances and the intelligent Avocent Power Distribution Units, he reports. Then Emerson engineers conducted assessments and installed the software, and two weeks of vendor-sponsored training began.

The only significant speed bump arose immediately after the deployment in October 2011. "For the first three months we received many false positives," Al-Qudsi says. "We discovered the importance of customizing the solution to fit our needs."

Relief From the Heat

Regardless, the solution quickly produced rewards. For starters, temperature monitoring revealed hot spots during month-end processing, Al-Qudsi notes. To compensate, NBAD rearranged servers, resulting in the ambient data center temperature dropping more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — a remarkable accomplishment given the climate, he says.

"We also improved system availability by 20 percent because the PDUs measure the power load on each side of the rack and alert us when thresholds are exceeded," Al-Qudsi reports. "In addition, by balancing the power load, we've decreased data center energy use by 15 kVA [kilovolt ampere]."

The deployment also helped NBAD achieve its security goals. "Now we not only limit physical access to our data center but also to our distant disaster recovery site," affirms Al-Qudsi. "Before, we traveled there a few times every month. Since the rollout, the DR site hasn't required a single trip."

While Al-Qudsi looks forward to improvements in existing Avocent solutions, such as more seamless integration between the vendor'stools, he's also keen to adopt Emerson's data center information management (DCIM) solution, Trellis, in the next few years. "It will move us to the facility level for management and control," he says.

Still, NBAD is beyond satisfied with the outcome. "We've shifted from reactive mode to predictive mode," Al-Qudsi says. "And in an industry that's all about reputation, reducing our downtime and improving performance is a testimony to our customers."

CASE STUDY SNAPSHOT


Institution: National Bank of Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates).
Assets: US$70 billion.
Business Challenge: Modernize data center infrastructure and management.
Solution: Multiple data center infrastructure management solutions from Huntsville, Ala.-based Avocent, a division of Emerson Network Power (Columbus, Ohio).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's ...