data center corridor flanked by cabinents
In this 3rd part of our 8 part blog series, we’ll explore the process of creating an entire Data Center hierarchy – everything from a world level map down to sites, Data Center buildings, floors, racks, devices and ports.


Though you may not pay much attention to hierarchies when you’re first on the market for a DCIM solution, don’t overlook them and end up stuck. Most DCIM vendors do offer some kind of fixed hierarchy with, say, a hierarchy tree showing Data Center floor plans and racks.Some may show you the rack elevation with devices (usually represented as simple rectangles)…and that’s about it. The point? A good hierarchy is hard to find.

Maybe you don’t care about the locations, or anything hierarchy related? You could decide that the 2/3 canned, predefined layers the vendor provides is good enough for your needs right now. But, what if you do care? Or, consider this: what if you need more when your organization expands beyond just one data center in the future? When you want more, you need a flexible DCIM tool that puts you in full control of the hierarchy.

Typical Hierarchies & Beyond

>- Level 1: Data Centers on a map

>– Level 2: Data Center building picture with floors

>— Level 3: Floorplan with racks (and other objects)

>—– Level 4: Rack with devices

>—— Level 5: Device Backplane with slots and cards

>——– Level 6: Cards with ports

The above is a fairly typical hierarchy: it’s possible that you may need something more complex such as rooms between the floorplan and racks, or aisles between the room level and the rack. You may even want a hybrid scenario as some Data Centers only have a couple of racks and you don’t want to be forced into some hierarchy (extra data entry and clicking, you know!) while others go all the way through. To put it simply: you want a DCIM solution that offers full flexibility and control.

Consider the following:

  • What if you need geo-referenced maps so you know where each data center is located exactly?
  • How about using custom icons to represent Data Centers, buildings and the like?
  • Maybe you want to utilize a picture of the entrance that you took and each floor with a custom semitransparent rectangle laid out nicely on top of that picture
  • How about floor plans in vectorized Autocad exported files, instead of a simplistic embedded grid
  • How about racks that are custom made to the last detail using custom footers and functions
  • And finally – what’s the support for oddball devices that the vendor doesn’t have in the catalog which also have multiple hardware hierarchies? Backplane with cards, cards with daughtercards, daughtercards with ports, etc?

Can you do that today? Does the tool you are analyzing consider this?

Don’t Adjust Your Business to the Constraints of the Software

I, and many of our customers, have a huge problem with the usual approach from other DCIM vendors. The limitation in layers and lack of flexibility would force you to adjust the business to the constraints of the DCIM software.

Here’s the thing: even if flexible hierarchies are not at the forefront of your DCIM analysis, there’s something inherently wrong, in my opinion, with tools that only give you a predefined hierarchy. It is not just that it limits you; it speaks volumes about the way the tool is architected and, in some way, reveals a bad internal data model. How so? Well, if the tool hardcodes the hierarchy, chances are its internal structure contains hardcoded entities like ‘Data Center’, ‘Floorplan’ or ‘Aisle’. It makes you wonder what else wasn’t abstracted from the model…

These limitations could easily spell trouble in other areas – and you’ll end up paying for that trouble with interest (and not of the 4% variety) down the road. Why? Because extending the model will be a lot more difficult than just a few clicks- you’ll end up needing the help of expensive consultants who drive down your ROI.As you can see in the video to the right, it’s easy to create a flexible hierarchy with our software – you’ll see exactly what I described in the above bullet points. And, in keeping with the tradition we started in our previous blog – we do it all in…60 seconds!

About Jan Durnhofer

As CEO / Product and Engineering Manager, Jan joined Graphical Networks with the purpose of creating the most advanced DCIM and IT visualization company in the market.