Data Center Management and Monitoring

Terry Slattery
Principal Architect

Do you know what’s happening in your data center? I’ve been working with two customers who are just starting to monitor the switch ports within their data centers. There are many good reasons for complete data center monitoring of all interfaces/ports.

  1. Most data centers employ some amount of oversubscription, particularly if 10Gbps server links are used. Using vPC or VSS (or the upcoming TRILL) supports aggregation of multiple uplinks (relative to Spanning Tree), but there is still oversubscription in all but the most lavishly built data centers. Collecting and trending performance and error data on server ports and switch uplinks can provide advance notification that uplinks are becoming saturated. Servers that are generating the load when the uplink saturates can often be moved (at least in a VM environment) to other VM hosts where there is available uplink capacity. Or perhaps the workload can be time-shifted so as to even out the network traffic load.
  2. Most data center traffic these days is east-west (server-to-server), making it important for data center monitoring to identify problems before they impact the business. Flow data or packet captures are typically needed to identify these traffic flows. Uplink loads can be reduced by locating dependent servers to the same switches, which takes advantage of higher backplane speeds than are available through uplinks. Just make sure that the high-availability requirements are not compromised in the process. Being able to provision adequate bandwidth between servers running key applications means that those applications are running at peak efficiency, which means that the productivity of the staff using those applications is not impacted.
  3. Look for server ports with extremely low utilization over long periods of time. Depending on the business, the period may need to be as long as 90 days or more, to identify servers that are used once a quarter or less. Some of the low utilization servers may no longer be actively used. Identifying these servers allows the VM resources to be re-allocated to new services. Don’t forget that backups are often running on these servers, increasing the volume of traffic that must transit the network during backup periods.

The above items also help prepare for a transition to virtualization as well as on-going monitoring after the transition. A combination of interface utilization monitoring, along with flow data collection and analysis, can help you make sure that the data center is operating correctly and efficiently. Congested links can be easily identified — often before the applications are impacted.

What are you doing for data center monitoring?



Re-posted with Permission 

NetCraftsmen would like to acknowledge Infoblox for their permission to re-post this article which originally appeared in the Applied Infrastructure blog under


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Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.