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DCIM: Managing 'IT' the Right Way

By CIOReview | Monday, August 8, 2016

The ever-growing worldwide demand for new, agile, and more powerful enterprise applications, along with the economic benefits of consolidation of physical assets, has led to an unprecedented growth of data centers in both size and density. Constraints of space and power, along with the complexity of monitoring and managing a large data center, have given rise to a new category of tools with integrated processes—Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM). Once deployed, a comprehensive DCIM solution provides data center operations managers with a clear picture of all data center assets along with their connectivity and relationships to support vital infrastructures like networks, copper and fiber cable plants, and cooling systems.

DCIM tools provide data center operations managers with the ability to identify, locate, visualize and manage all physical data center assets, provision new equipments and confidently plan capacity for future growth and consolidation. These tools can also help control energy costs and increase operational efficiency. The spread out nature of the modern data center has led to new types of demands around utilization of resources and control.

As organizations continue to assimilate the flow of electronic data in humongous quantities, it has become imperative for them to pay greater attention to the infrastructure that holds the data and the increasing costs of its management. CFOs have traditionally tried to focus only on the investments in IT, software, and related necessities, including networking and services that are of utmost importance in maintaining a high performance data center. Now, with growing issues in data security, sustainability, compliance assurance, and capacity planning, businesses are under enormous pressure to deploy effective management systems to reduce costs while identifying and eliminating inefficiencies at the same time.

Leaders in the IT arena and decision makers of today are in desperate search for the insight and information that a true data center Infrastructure Management solution offers. There’s a growing need to be able to see, understand, and optimize the plethora of intricate interrelationships that drive the modern data center.

Reality Check

DCIM is about the Enterprise: A true and authentic DCIM solution could be scaled to manage a wide array of assets sitting in the world’s largest global IT infrastructure environments; all of the servers, switches, blades and the myriad of facilities and the building systems that constitute the physical infrastructure.

DCIM is about Management: Monitoring energy usage at the device level gives information about data—a single dimensional perspective on a specific device at a specific point in time, without context. The data must be deciphered, so you can make sense of it. Managing energy usage across the power chain calls for context rich information about all the interrelationships that exist between assets that is meaningful and actionable, and lets you track power all the way from the transformer on the street down to every device on every rack.

DCIM is the New Paradigm: DCIM has raised the bar high and is considered to be the new paradigm in efficiently managing the assets and assessing the performance of a data center. With data centers becoming more complex and advanced—both in terms of size and functionality—organizations are deploying a new set of advanced solutions that help keep an eye on data center resources and equipments and ensure enhanced efficiency and productivity.

Basic DCIM Components and Functions

A Single Repository: A single repository refers to one authoritative database to house plethora of data from across all data centers and sites of all physical assets, including data center layout, with detailed data for IT, power and HVAC equipment, and end-to-end network and power cable connections.

Asset Discovery and Asset Tracking: Tools to capture assets, their details, relationships and interdependencies.

Visualization: Visualization refers to graphical visualization, tracking and management of all data center assets and their related physical and logical attributes—servers, structured cable plants, networks, and power infrastructure.

Provisioning New Equipment: This refers to automated tools to aid prompt deployment of new systems and all their related physical and logical resources.

Real-Time Data Collection: Integration with real-time monitoring systems to collect actual power usage/environmental data to optimize capacity management.

Benefits of DCIM

DCIM implementation offers several noticeable benefits including increased time and cost savings, enhanced productivity, and a better Return On Investments (ROI). Some of the key benefits of deploying a structured DCIM solution include:

  • Clear Visibility: Provision of accurate and clear information about data center equipment and resources.  
  •  Regulatory Compliance: Adherence and compliance to standards and procedures pertaining to data center equipments.
  •  Predictive Analytics: Accurate prediction regarding consumption of energy, power, and data center cooling capacity leading to time savings.
  •  Cost Efficiency: Diminished operating costs as a result of efficient energy usage.   
  •  Enhanced Decision Making: Information on the availability and utilization of data center assets and resources facilitates informed decision-making pertaining to infrastructure management.  

Asset management is one of the most critical components of DCIM. A data center can contain multitude of assets, from servers, storage and network devices to power and cooling infrastructure equipments. Tracking these assets is an ongoing and often herculean challenge. However, asset management covers more than simply locating a data center asset. Accurate, up-to-date and easily verifiable information is crucial to effective capacity planning and density management. With real-time asset tracking and automation, you can manage the entire lifecycle of your assets—from purchase through deployment to end-of-life—to calculate and reduce the total cost of ownership of your data center.

The next step for IT professionals should be broader adoption of asset management as a service (AMaaS), which provides an ongoing view into asset use. Many companies use their own data center asset management systems to track equipments. Keeping a track of the equipment and the applications that run on the equipment is part of good IT lifecycle management. The most common use for (AMaaS) is where users have remote operations with a small team of IT professionals who are dedicated to specific tasks, and don't have the time or expertise to look after the 'housekeeping' of the data center.

Every aspect of data center and asset management is changing with changing times. The basic foundation of IT has long been assumed to exist in a world where resources appear to be infinite in nature. A CIO's new role in this changing new world is to provide the right amount of services at the least cost, to assure that those services are available at the level required for the business. The "new" data center is not a loose aggregation of isolated sub-systems, but instead must act as a single, pro-actively planned and managed entity.

As more than a few executives have proclaimed—“it’s about time.”