Avoiding DCIM Chaos and IT Paralysis

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Mark Harris, is vice president of marketing at Server Technology, a provider of the rack mount power distribution and monitoring solutions.

Mark_Harris_tnMARK HARRIS
Server Technology

The world of DCIM has become crowded over the past several years.  While the “DCIM” moniker was originally intended to denote a category of products that comprehensively (and many times visually) managed data center floor-plans, rows, racks and assets, the interpretation by customers and vendors alike has widened to include nearly anything that touches the physical layer of the data center.  The expansion of the term is a reflection of growing expectations for DCIM.  Though still in its infancy in many ways (DCIM is not yet routinely listed on IT job descriptions or project plans, for example), DCIM is a noble category with great promise.

Energy Prices, Critical Nature of IT Increase Interest in DCIM

The catalysts for the growth of interest in DCIM are the rising cost of energy and the increasing importance of IT systems to the enterprise.  Although once viewed simply in the context of ‘going green’, DCIM has come to be viewed as an essential set of business-management principles that benefit the economic bottom line.

DCIM provides an opportunity for the modern IT professional to take a deep breath and rethink the outdated assumptions and processes that often lead to operational inefficiencies.  With IT now considered a business line to be managed internally (with ROI and P/L-style metrics, no less), the days of IT being viewed as a black box requiring blank checks to operate are long gone.  IT, Finance and Facilities find themselves in a financial wrestling match of sorts — with the CEO and board of directors as anxious spectators. A sense of urgency now exists. As such, most Fortune 500 companies that have not funded production-level physical infrastructure management initiatives to date are now likely to do so in 2012.

Physical layer data center management is simply too hot and topical to ignore.  Put more bluntly: an IT manager who fails to leverage these opportunities may find this task handed to his successor!

Clarity Needed about DCIM Category

Although the situation is improving, the many misconceptions that still surround the DCIM category prevent many potential beneficiaries from getting started.  While some DCIM solutions are impressive works of engineering in their own right and could easily be deployed as stand-alone solutions to address a fixed set of problems,  many of these systems tend to be discussed in much bigger contexts with wide-ranging capabilities explored.

Multiple vendors get involved, cross boundaries and promote a set of capabilities that cannot be easily achieved with the technologies in question unless significant custom integrations are executed.  In the end, the original set of capabilities seems inadequate and trivial to the prospective buyer.  Buyers become disoriented, project dollars are reapportioned elsewhere, and the search for the physical-layer optimizing solutions becomes like that of the Holy Grail.

Keeping Your Eye on the Reqs

A useful reminder to buyers in this stage is to look back on their original needs and requirements. Solutions should be chosen for their modularity, scalability, and use of open protocols and well documented data schemas so that current requirements can be met while ensuring that future functionality can be added with minimal disruption.

Rest assured, any one of the 200 or so physical layer infrastructure vendors being engaged will have a future compatibility story, as their very survival depends on it. Remember, even NASA started the next-generation shuttle project years before understanding the details required to realize the entire big picture, like how to design and build some of the more complex components, including the engines!   DCIM category progress will be made. . .once begun!

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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