So: you’ve been tasked with finding the right Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tool for your organization. In baseball, before you step up to the plate, you first take a look at the whole field. The same is true for DCIM. This blog series will explore the ins and outs of choosing the right software – and the right company – to work with.
What is DCIM?
If you ask ten different people to define DCIM, you will, most likely, get ten different answers. Why? DCIM spans a broad spectrum of data center functions.
We can talk for hours about how the definition of DCIM has been muddled by different vendors in the space. Yeah, yeah, DCIM is whatever the customer wants it to be. We know. But if we want to have a conversation about how to choose a DCIM we still have to somehow define it, so here’s our take: DCIM is a process and set of solutions to track, monitor and manage the data and power utilization of all IT-related assets (hardware and software) as well as infrastructure components (racks, cooling units, trays, floor plan space, etc.) that are related to the Data Center for the purpose of optimizing consumption and reducing cost.
When choosing a DCIM solution start by finding out what your specific needs are and the level of preparedness of your organization for managing that solution (and process) . With a DCIM solution in place, managers gain access to data, power and cooling info, space resource consumption and growth patterns for your IT resources, as well as the ability to plan and forecast when a resource will expire or when a new purchase will be on the horizon. Resources are optimized and maximized. DCIM is a powerful way to automate data center operations while maximizing the ROI from company resources.
The DCIM solution you choose can come with a wide variety of functions. Your organization may need all of them or just a few. Probably no tool in the market will perform all the functions that have been touted in the past as part of DCIM and you probably don’t need to worry. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. DCIM solutions can be expensive and take a long time to implement, so focus on the core and use sound criteria when evaluating solutions.
To better gain an understanding of what a DCIM solution would mean in your organization, let’s take a look at some of the most common DCIM sub-categories:
Floor & Rack Management
How do you manage space and racks? Where is space underutilized? Where does new equipment go? Space and rack management can greatly assist data centers in streamlining and optimizing physical space, rack unit utilization and geographical location of assets.
Environmental Power & Temperature Monitoring
DCIM solutions assist with real-time power and temperature readings bringing them into one view that can relate them with the underlying IT components that are affected. DCIM solutions offer managers comprehensive views into energy usage and thermal data on the device, rack, room and overall data center levels.
This is a key part of what DCIM is all about. As you know, data centers can contain
thousands of assets and accurately tracking all of these can be nothing short of a herculean task. How long does it take to locate a server once it goes down? Not being able to locate equipment quickly when needed can really put a damper on things. Beyond just finding an asset, asset management includes getting details about how its configuration. What is a server connected to? If a rack power strip is disconnected, will the server shut down?
Proper asset management helps data centers run with greater efficiency while reducing costs. Then…there is that little thing called discovery. We will talk more about asset management and discovery capabilities in a subsequent blog.This is a key part of what DCIM is all about. As you know, data centers can contain thousands of assets and accurately tracking all of these can be nothing short of a herculean task. How long does it take to locate a server once it goes down? Not being able to locate equipment quickly when needed can really put a damper on things. Beyond just finding an asset, asset management includes getting details about how its configuration. What is a server connected to? If a rack power strip is disconnected, will the server shut down? Proper asset management helps data centers run with greater efficiency while reducing costs. Then there is that little thing called discovery. We will talk more about asset management and discovery capabilities in a subsequent blog.
Cable and Circuit Management
Cable and circuit management is a whole topic in and off itself (and we will devote another blog to that). If you have cable management requirements, this is a perfect area to get stuck with an unusable tool that looks good on paper (or Power point). A DCIM with proper cable management features is not just limited to being able to track a connection from A to B. It needs be able to discover them (at least, what is discoverable), visualize them, trace them, create hierarchies of connectivity and above all, do all of this easily.
Logical, Virtual and Application Views
With all the virtualization happening today you probably are interested in mapping which VM images run on which host. You may also want to obtain other application data so you can map them to the appropriate virtual and physical host in your data center. Moreover, it would be nice if the same device that is logically depicted as part of a network serving specific VM images, applications, systems and so on, can also be physically displayed on the appropriate cabinet and rack position.
Computational Fluid Dynamics
DCIM works in tandem with computational fluid dynamics: complex airflow and thermal patterns in the data center can be modeled and monitored for optimum Data Center design.
Do You Know What You Need?
With so many sub-categories, it’s key to have a solid understanding of your organization’s requirements and needs before you choose a DCIM solution. Let’s look at an analogy. When you go car shopping, you probably walk in with a certain set of specifications based on how you’ll use the vehicle. If, for example, you need to haul heavy equipment, you’ve probably got a certain kind of truck in mind – and you’ll probably do some research on the different load capacity engines. You’ll probably also, in some capacity, test-drive that truck.
It’s hard to believe, given price tags that dwarf the cost of large trucks, but not only do many companies fail to properly vet a DCIM solution; they don’t even have a solid understanding of the requirements they have to meet their needs. Think about it like this: you wouldn’t buy just any vehicle a salesperson suggests, would you? Knowing what you need and how it will work for you is an essential step in the DCIM purchasing process.
In this series, we’ll be examining the many functionalities of DCIM and how they relate to your organization’s needs. Once you’ve gained a solid understanding of how DCIM solutions can work for you, we’ll take a look how you can zero in on the right vendor for your needs.
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