What is Data Center Infrastructure Management?

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) means many things to many people. It is a relatively young term that represents an emerging class of IT physical infrastructure solutions, one that has already generated enormous market acceptance. Gartner predicts that it will quickly become mainstream, growing from 1% penetration of data centers in 2010 to 60% in 2014 (DCIM: Going Beyond IT, Gartner Research, March 2010).

Why is DCIM taking the market with such force?

If you ask the executives who lie awake at night worrying about the tens of thousands of IT assets under their supervision, they’ll explain it with one word: “Help!”

Today’s IT decision-makers are starving for the information, insight, and command-and-control that a true Data Center Infrastructure Management solution offers.

They need to be able to see, understand, manage, and optimize the myriad of complex interrelationships that drive the modern data center – one of the most complex entities on earth. They need holistic information and visibility into the entire IT infrastructure, information that that is instantly meaningful and actionable. (Fragmented device-level data is no longer of much use to them.)

To paraphrase one of Gartner’s early definitions: Data Center Infrastructure Management integrates facets of system management with building management and energy management, with a focus on IT assets and the physical infrastructure needed to support them.

So what does this all really mean?

Data Center Infrastructure Management – when it’s the right solution from the right vendor – can optimize the performance, efficiency, and business value of IT physical infrastructure and keep it seamlessly aligned with the needs of the business.

DCIM can help decision-makers:

  • Locate, visualize, and manage all of their physical assets within an integrated “single pane” view of the entire infrastructure
  • Automate the commissioning of new equipment, reducing the need for error-prone, time-consuming manual tasks like walking the floor to confirm what can go where
  • Automate capacity planning with unparalleled forecasting capabilities, including the use of “what if” scenarios
  • Reduce energy consumption, energy costs, and carbon footprint – save the planet while you’re saving potentially millions
  • Align IT to the needs of the business – and maintain that alignment, no matter how radically those business requirements may change and grow

But not all DCIM vendors are created equal. IT decision-makers must make a careful evaluation of today’s vendors, products, and promises. They must strip away the misconceptions. Here are three common myths about DCIM.

Myth vs. Reality

Myth: DCIM is about the data center.

REALITY: DCIM IS ABOUT THE ENTERPRISE.

A true Data Center Infrastructure Management solution can scale to manage hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of assets sitting in the world’s largest global IT infrastructure environments. All of the servers, switches, blades, etc. and the myriad of facilities and building systems that constitute the physical infrastructure. Not just in the data center, but across the entire enterprise. Because the walls between IT and facilities are coming down. If the vendor cannot scale to reliably meet the challenge of convergence at the enterprise level – handcuffed by product limitations or lack of experience – then it is not a complete DCIM vendor.

Myth: DCIM is about monitoring.

REALITY: DCIM IS ABOUT MANAGING.

Executives today cannot afford to mistake monitoring for managing. Monitoring energy usage at the device level gives you mere data – a single-dimensional perspective on a specific device at a specific point in time, without context. The data must be deciphered or assimilated so you can make sense of it.

Managing energy usage across the power chain requires context-rich information about all of the interrelationships that exist between assets – holistic information that is immediately meaningful and actionable, and lets you track power all the way from the transformer on the street down to every device on every rack.

This insight is best found in an interactive, navigable 3D environment that validates the axiom, “a picture’s worth 1,000 words.” Humans are innately visual creatures, making interactive 3D visualization the perfect environment for presenting holistic information that leads to swift, insightful decision-making. Interactive 3D visualization is core to Data Center Infrastructure Management because it’s the most effective way for IT executives to wrap their arms around the incredible complexity of the modern data center. Conventional 2D spreadsheets or static 3D images, for example, cannot possibly represent the web of interrelationships that a power chain encompasses.

Myth: DCIM is about power.

Reality: DCIM IS ABOUT EVERYTHING.

In its early days, Data Center Infrastructure Management was born of the need to understand and reduce energy consumption. “DCIM is an offshoot of the green IT initiative and originally was designed to do basic energy monitoring, reporting and management at the data centre level,” says analyst David Cappuccio of Gartner. This statement may be true, but DCIM with interactive 3D visualization has evolved far beyond power.

As a solution that integrates IT physical infrastructure management, facilities management, and systems management, DCIM is transforming how the IT ecosystem is seen and managed. A true DCIM solution is a game-changer across a spectrum of challenges:

  • Energy management. Reducing energy consumption and costs – priority #1 in data centers worldwide.
  • Asset management. Optimizing the utilization of assets throughout their lifecycles, from acquisition to decommissioning.
  • Availability management. Proactively identifying the impact of failures and maintenance outages on data center service levels.
  • Risk management. Establishing controls and records-keeping to meet regulatory requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, etc.
  • Service management. Monitoring the satisfaction of service requests to identify gaps and implement corrective actions where needed.
  • Supply chain management. Improving coordination of equipment delivery and disposal, resolving bottlenecks that can increase operating costs.
  • IT automation. Automating the planning and execution of infrastructure service requests, eliminating manual steps and speeding time-to-delivery.

The bottom line

The physical layer has increasingly become the single point of IT operational dependency in a world of increasing convergence. DCIM is the natural evolution of this process. The physical layer is now being treated with the same level of priority as the logical layer. Investments in managing the logical layer are shifting to investments in managing the physical layer.

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

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6 Responses to “What is Data Center Infrastructure Management?”

  1. Wilson says:

    How can i apply the DCIM principles to design a data center for an oil exploration and production company

  2. Willie says:

    Hi Wilson, our DCIM solution is driving efficiency and strategic value today for customers in utilities, oil, manufacturing, and other related industries. Our sales team will contact you with more information. Thanks, Willie

  3. Ken Jones says:

    Why doesn’t the Unified Facility Criteria address Infrastructure Managment for class II Real Property built in IT infrastructure?

  4. Willie says:

    Hi Ken, my understanding is that Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) documents provide planning, construction, restoration, and modernization criteria for the military. UFC represents the site and building, not the IT assets or connectivity (power and network). The focus of UFC and DCIM are different.

  5. Brent Urban says:

    Willie, Does iTRACS monitor intelligent PDU’s and does Commscope sell or manufacture intelligent PDU’s?

  6. Willie says:

    Hi Brent – yes, iTRACS can pull data from intelligent PDUs and bring it into our management platform, along with data from a myriad of other facilities and IT assets. We call this, “Unlocking the Data” because we turn this important data into information you can use. No, CommScope does not sell the PDUs themselves.

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