Physical Inventory? I thought we were talking about Cloud?
Most enterprises as well as SMBs have adopted virtualization in mass. Therefore, performing a physical audit of the data center is something that is often overlooked. While I do agree that there are other discovery elements that should receive a greater focus, performing a physical inventory can still provide some critical data elements.
Most electronic discovery tools are designed to discover compute assets (physical and virtual). Even then, devices that are on protected (or unknown) subnets may not be discovered electronically nor will they always detect ancillary connections (fax, USB, etc.). Finding a physical device that may be hosted on an undocumented subnet or domain will improve the accuracy of your discovery. Network, storage, and especially security appliances are often not discoverable, or the discovery tool may not gather configuration information on them. Most data centers contain networking equipment other than just routers and switches. A physical audit will allow you to identify these devices and manually gather information on them. Without walking the data center, it’s also very hard to get a complete understanding of the storage technologies in play. Interviews with storage engineers are valuable, but often times a stroll through the data center will lead to the discovery of a storage device that may still be in use but the engineer had forgotten about. Security appliances are purposely deployed to not be discoverable via an electronic discovery tool.
In situations where the IT organization is expecting to relocate physical hardware, they will frequently attempt cable tracing during a physical audit. It’s important to remember that doing any type of invasive cable tracing during a physical audit is a risky endeavor. Accidentally unseating a connection can have disastrous impacts to the business. Many times, I’ve had an IT organization ask to have the cable labels correlated from switch port to the port on the server, appliance, or storage array. While this is less invasive, it assumes that the client has been diligent with its labeling practices…which is rarely the case. In my experience, it’s a far better option to document connection type and quantity, then design a new cabling scheme to accommodate the requirements.
Regardless of where you are migrating (cloud, co-lo, or data center) or how (physical, logical, or transformation); having a handle on all your data center assets is key to your success, a little time on your data center floor will pay off in the end.
I invite you to continue learning about all the facets of environmental discovery in our next article of this series.