‘Usability’: it’s one word that means a whole lot, right? Before you purchase any new enterprise-grade software, your IT team probably wants to know: how’s the usability, or, in other words, how easy is it for your organization’s users to use a new application to create and foster adopt-ability for a new software program such as Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM)?

When it comes to the question of if DCIM is easy, it’s had a not-so-stellar reputation. In fact, DCIM’s reputation as being too dense and almost too powerful to be considered easy is one of the key reasons as to why it’s been difficult, in the past, for this solution to be adopted more widely or even just to get your DCIM project signed off on….and that’s unfortunate, given just how transformative DCIM can be to a data center that needs a better way to plan for capacity, design future expansions, track and lower power costs, and have solid IT documentation in place.

So, as a DCIM vendor who’s been in IT visualization for decades, what are my requirements for “easy DCIM”?

Easy DCIM = Easy Data Center Diagrams

Because data center diagrams are crucial to effective DCIM, how easily you can create and access them is important.

If you’re testing a DCIM solution, see how easy it is to first log in and start trying to create your data center rack diagram. Why? Your DCIM program should be intuitive enough to know where to start or provide some type of tutorial guide to help you get started. Another example: if you assign an intern to start creating your data center diagrams, how easy or hard would it be to create your first rack diagram? If it takes too long or is too complicated to figure out…uh oh your new DCIM investment may become, gulp, shelfware.

Easy DCIM = Easy Cable Management

Ah, cabling connections…cabling is so often overlooked when selecting a DCIM solution. I have been on so many calls with organizations that have already bought a DCIM solution and are now looking for a cable management system. Quite frankly, if you need to manage cables, you shouldn’t have to purchase two different systems: DCIM can seamlessly include robust cable management capabilities (our software, netTerrain, does, for example). Having to go between, or try and integrate, two disparate systems for racks and cables is a headache…and it doesn’t qualify as “easy”.

So, if you need DCIM and you need to manage cables, be sure to include cable management as part of your DCIM requirements! You’ll save a ton of money and time by not having to invest in two different systems. You need to find out how easy is it to connect ports to other ports, to other devices, and to racks.

With netTerrain DCIM, there are three easy ways to create cable connections:

  1. Go to the device’s port(s), right-click ‘connect’, then go to the other device’s ports, and select the ports you want to connect, then right-click ‘connect to’ and select the type of connection.
  2. In a rack view, select two devices, right-click, and create connections.
  3. In the top view of the data center, select two different racks, right-click ‘make connections’. It will show all the devices and ports, then you select which ports you want to connect too.

Easy DCIM = An Easy Checklist

As there are countless different use cases that may apply to your DCIM needs, below is a checklist of different scenarios you may come across:

Question #1: Custom Data Fields?

Why ask? Maybe you’ll want to enter in other data fields that you want to track with your IT assets (data fields like warranty, under maintenance, cost, etc.).

Find out: is it even possible to add new data fields in your DCIM solution? Is it a headache or is it relatively easy?

Question #2: Easy to Add New Catalog Devices?

Why ask? Sometimes you may need new catalog devices from your vendor that aren’t already in the catalog the vendor provides.

Find out: how hard is it to get catalog devices from your DCIM vendor? Will it take just 24 hours or will it take months to get a device that you can place into your rack diagrams? Can you create your own device models too?

Question #2: Easy Searching?

Why ask? You will likely need to search for information across the solution.

Find out: can you just enter in an IP Address or any other data field to search and get the results back instantly (much faster then looking at lots of spreadsheets and Visio diagrams)?

Question #3: Easy Integrations?

Why ask? If you rely on third-party data sources, from ServiceNow to AWS or you name it, you very well may want to bring these data sources in to your DCIM solution.

Find out: how easy is it to connect to third party data sources? Is it a simple matter of entering the username/password of your existing system and then hitting ‘Scan’? Or is it far more complicated, as in: does it require a month or more custom professional services just to create the connector?

Question #4: Easy Importing of Visio & Spreadsheets?

Why ask? If you have data in spreadsheets and Visio, you’ll probably want to bring it all in.

Find out: how hard is it to import my spreadsheets and Visio diagrams? Is it a matter of following a spreadsheet template that you can create your entire project and when hitting import, it creates your entire DCIM diagrams for you? Clicking on Visio import with 2 clicks to see how it looks in the DCIM diagrams?

While the above scenarios are just a small selection of the possible ways to learn if a DCIM solution is easy or not, they should give you a basic idea of what is in store. Please ask a potential DCIM vendor these questions so you can proceed with your DCIM purchase with confidence that your organization will use this for years to come and avoid the shelfware effect. Because good, or poor, usability can make or break a DCIM project, it’s one of the reasons why you should always ask your DCIM vendor to try their software for at least 14 days: you need to see how easy it is to start creating your data center diagrams.

Many organizations choose our solution, netTerrain DCIM, because of how easy it is to create the diagrams, by dragging and dropping objects from the catalog, right into the diagrams (we once heard a customer describe netTerrain as being like ‘Visio on steroids’!).

If you’re interested in learning more about our software, netTerrain DCIM, we do offer a free 14-day trial for testing in our Cloud environment (note that we also offer an on-premise solution). If you’d like to try the SaaS version for free, click here: https://www.netterrain.us/.

About Fred Koh

As a seasoned sales executive, Fred Koh serves as Director of Sales and is responsible for Graphical Networks sales and channel partner program, marketing strategy, and operations.