To the question of whether data center infrastructure management (DCIM) works as intended, it depends on who you ask. Those who have successfully deployed DCIM software might say it has brought about a revolution in their business — that it has reduced risk, enabled effective capacity provisioning, and helped raise utilization levels. For other companies, however, DCIM has not resulted in the ROI they were expecting at the outset.
Infrastructure management and monitoring did not begin with DCIM. Years ago, it was all spreadsheets and reliable footwear to walk the floors and perform manual inspections of equipment. In time, it became clear that better methods of monitoring for capacity and usage, heating and cooling, and rack or cabinet space were required.
DCIM solutions came out of a need to help manage equipment utilization and performance, including but by no means limited to sharply rising power consumption costs, space and facility capacity, and various environmental needs. Currently, innovation and “green” strategies are nudging companies toward automated and interconnected solutions. In a progressively greener world, Gartner predicts a considerable increase in sales of DCIM tools.
Out of a recent Gartner Magic Quadrant report on DCIM came the advice that “all organizations with at least a moderate-sized data center (hundreds of racks with a five to eight peak kilowatt load) should consider investing in a DCIM tool, especially if they have a cost optimization initiative or are planning significant data center changes.” Gartner recommends that companies invest in DCIM as it not only allows them to monitor and optimize such things as power and cooling but also because it offers integrated reporting that can serve as a critical piece of strategic planning overall.
Most IT professionals today are familiar with traditional methods of keeping an eye on infrastructure, including downtime alerts, server component and/or resource evaluation and network latency checks. There are many products out there that will allow an organization to keep tabs on the health of its physical systems, software, and environment. DCIM offers this capability, but it also offers much more.
Traditional infrastructure monitoring is myopic in the sense that it is largely about a single piece of the monitoring puzzle. As an example: with traditional monitoring you might know your servers are up but have no idea how many servers you could possibly fit into your space and be able to safely cool. DCIM provides the full picture via such elements as:
- Change management
- Maximizing system utilization for maximal efficiency
- Multi-layered monitoring
- Future planning by way of modeling scenarios
- Resource and location consolidation
- Asset tracking
- Analysis of virtual/logical systems and the ways they interact with your physical hardware
While there may exist software and/or products to handle some of these areas, DCIM can unify all within one centralized administration point. This provides true “360 vision” — a bringing-together of all pieces of the puzzle.
Research has revealed a number of pitfalls that end users should avoid when evaluating and implementing DCIM solutions. The Schneider Electric white paper “Avoiding Common Pitfalls of Evaluating and Implementing DCIM Solutions” describes and provides practical guidance on how to avoid three common pitfalls of evaluating and implementing DCIM solutions:
- Choosing an inappropriate solution
- Relying on inadequate or mismatched processes
- Lack of commitment, ownership, and knowledge