What’s The True Meaning of DCIM?

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John Consoli is VP of Sales and Marketing for FieldView Solutions, a provider of Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software.

JOHN-CONSOLIJOHN CONSOLI
FieldView

Let’s cut to the chase. It’s no secret that the driving force behind Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is the need for complete visibility into a data center to better manage costs and capacity. But what does DCIM really mean? Far too many throw around the term without a full grasp of the acronym’s definition. It’s time to set the record straight.

Let’s Start at the Beginning

To understand DCIM, we must see what’s behind the demand. The answer is pretty straightforward: The need for real-time information. The unprecedented rate of digital universe growth is impacting the data center. The International Data Corporation’s (IDC) 2011 report indicates the volume of information will more than double every two years. This translates to information growing nearly 50 times by 2020.

This clearly puts a strain on data centers as they are squeezed to securely house more information. In addition, IT failures have proven to be one of the most costly challenges companies face. The industry report by Roger Sessions is so dramatic, it bears repeating here:  Sessions calculates  the total annual cost of worldwide IT failures at $6.2 trillion.  (Source: ZDNet) Additionally, when Amazon suffered a major outage in 2008, many reports attempted to calculate their cost of downtime as well.

Rising energy prices are further compounding this issue. The data center expansion to handle this growth translates into a major revenue hit for companies.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), data centers consume as much as 20 times more energy per square foot than a typical office building.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  According to a report in Information Week, the total electric bill to effectively operate a typical infrastructure worldwide in 2005 was $7.2 billion.

So how do you power these infrastructures without breaking the bank? For many, the answer is DCIM.

Setting the Record Straight

For different companies, DCIM has different meanings. But which one is correct? An ideal DCIM tool should enable centralized monitoring, management, and intelligent capacity planning of critical systems. This enterprise data center process helps data center operators address difficult challenges, including:  Escalating energy costs, tight budgets, dwindling network capacity, limited floor space, and pressure for more uptime. Leveraging DCIM, companies can find new ways to maximize data center ROI and achieve greater levels of data center efficiency and power efficiency.

Furthermore, while Building Management Systems (BMS) offer valuable function for the organization, they are not viable data center planning tools.  Deploying a DCIM tool is not an option for data centers – it’s a “must have” tool with high ROIs that enables data center operators to efficiently use all the resources.  The next-generation data centers cannot be starved of DCIM tools but should consider it the norm to deploy. The decision to implement a DCIM strategy calls for a collaboration of IT, Facilities and C-Level management. Choosing the right tool starts with defining the goals of the organization and committing to a plan of action that supports those goals.

You could compare the DCIM solution to forensic technology that surveys an area to uncover obscured information and bring hidden data to light to make informed and accurate decisions.

Not One Solution ‘To Rule Them All’

But it’s important to note there’s no single solution that can handle all data center needs -– from utility power to inventory to asset management. Some DCIM tools may focus on real-time Branch Circuit Monitoring (BCM), with the ability to monitor and manage hundreds of thousands of circuits. In a colocation facility, BCM makes billing for individual users extremely accurate, supplying the information necessary to generate up-to-the-minute reports. Based on unprecedented access to real-time information, users can improve energy efficiency and capacity planning, figure carbon emissions, and ease phase and load balancing.

Let’s not underestimate the power of information. Far too often, companies are in the dark about power utilization —- and when they’ll reach capacity.  Multiple “buffers” built in to calculating power usage lead many data center teams to think they are running out of power and cooling long before they actually are.

There should be no uncertainty about calculating energy usage, and empowering customers with accurate, real-time energy monitoring — this crucial information is the difference between success and failure.

Whether managing daily equipment deployments, ensuring that power and cooling infrastructures are operating reliably or managing complex metrics to validate operational performance and energy efficiency, the DCIM solution should offer operations and management teams’ meticulous access to real-time information to better manage their data centers.

Let’s Keep the Conversation Going

So what is DCIM?  Each solution has different strengths, but the key is to identify your unique pain points and work with a proven solution provider to solve them.  But the buck doesn’t stop here.  Let’s hear your thoughts on DCIM:  What it is, what it’s not, and what it means to you.  Jump in to comment – let’s keep the conversation going!

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2 Comments

  1. Colin Drew

    A great article John, which really drives the urgency around DCIM – as you say, it’s not a side show it should be the core of the IT strategy. Thanks for the invite to beat the drum. We often here about IT to Business alignment and now integration but so often I see in my work that facilities often used to get forgotten, it used to be the poor cousin in the basement. This approach burns a hole in the corporate bottom line and I see DCIM as the hub that can draw facilities, IT and business into a single management view. The problem I have with some vendors is that they portray DCIM as a tool, possibly thinking it’s easier for clients to focus on a physical entity and they lead with the technology instead of the business benefits. But really, DCIM is a strategy and should be integrated into IT which should be based on the overall business strategy. Having said that and as mentioned in the article, DCIM need not be a big bang approach. First start with the key pain points and the basics and then expand as adoption is accepted and the process matures.

  2. I see one of the biggest contributors to DCIM's advancement now and for years to come is our societies growing interest with the cloud. Data Centers are going to expand internally before they expand externally. Rack capacity will be pushed to its limits. All the more reason for data center managers to be in the know about the whereabouts of their equipment. Cisco's UCS and the virtualization of hardware create a need by data centers that is only solved through the utilization of DCIM.