DCIM Notes: 3-D is Great, But Insight Is What Counts

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Gary Bunyan is Global DCIM Solutions Specialist at iTRACS Corporation, a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) company. This is the third in a series of columns by Gary about “the user experience.” See Gary’s previous columns on DCIM User Experience and Tearing Down the Silos.

Gary Bunyan iTRACSGARY BUNYAN
iTRACS

This spring, I’ve traveled to six countries in five weeks, collaborating with clients on how their organizations can leverage Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) with Interactive 3-D Visualization to solve both operational issues like power management and strategic issues like 3-year capacity planning.

While clients like the 3-D visuals, what they love are the deep-dive information and insight behind the pretty pictures. Because it’s what their teams can do with the 3-D model that counts.

By providing a single point of management across the entire physical ecosystem, DCIM offers actionable information and a rich data set about key dynamics of the physical environment – assets, power, space, time, connectivity, the infrastructure on which applications are dependent, lines of business, process and people. It can help data center owners and operators optimize energy efficiency, space, assets – but it can also do much more.

In this column, let’s take a look at how DCIM can be used to solve two different kinds of challenges – operational and strategic.

Operational Challenges – Mitigating Your Day-to-Day Risks

Let’s say you need to commission 300 new servers in three separate data centers on three different continents to support the launch of a new cloud-based service for the business. This could be risky if there isn’t close coordination between what is happening between sites, where and when.

But with DCIM, all of the teams see the same repository of information, thus enhancing collaboration. Misinterpretations and mistakes are eliminated because planning and execution of the expansion are collectively interrogated in interactive 3-D. Your teams know what to expect and when before a single server leaves the loading docks for installation.

How? By using what-if scenarios to see, visually and in context, the impacts of change upon the interdependencies in the data center. You can use 3-D modeling to visually confirm:

  • Where the new devices can best be placed – racks, cabinets, and rows – based on current infrastructure, available power, available space, network interdependencies, etc.
  • The impacts of the changes on space, power, cooling, and network connectivity to mitigate risk and ensure a seamless transition
  • What the three data centers will look like when the 300 servers are added

You can do all of this in DCIM software, before the deployment actually occurs.

Step-by-step plans can help teams "see" everything, right down to every port on every device on the floor. (Graphic courtesy iTRACS.)

Your teams can share these what-if scenarios to make sure everyone is on the same path before a single action is taken. This shortens your decision tree, even if it does stretch across 3 continents. The risk of error, inefficiency, and cost overruns during commissioning and implementation –- because your teams are misaligned either individually or collectively –- is mitigated.

You can also produce detailed work plans and visual representations of actions needed to complete the work. Step-by-step work plans that guide your teams exactly what they have to do – literally, which cable goes into which port for every server commissioned. Simply hand them to the technical teams on the floor.

Strategic Challenges – Aligning Your Data Center to the Needs of the Business

Data centers are now an asset class of their own in terms of finances and long-term ROI. So IT executives are looking at DCIM and asking, “Can this tool help me create and execute a long-term strategic plan for my data center?”

The answer, as my clients can tell you, is yes.

Cost Control:  DCIM can help you plan, analyze and visualize your future capacity needs so your organization doesn’t get caught in an ugly surprise, such as you need to double your capacity in the next 6 months. (Ouch.)

But capacity planning is no longer just a process to forecast future infrastructure needs. It has become integral to a larger challenge – understanding and managing the costs associated with providing IT services to the business. In others words, optimizing the long-term CAPEX and OPEX of your physical infrastructure.

The granular power, space, asset and interconnectivity knowledge inherent in DCIM can help you manage your infrastructure costs strategically, with some very positive impacts. Reports can be delivered based on skill set, role and need. Executives can explore and grasp the impact of change not only at a data center level, but at a corporate or financial level for the CIO or the CFO. This understanding can include better planning on equipment leasing; more informed decision-making in your financing trade-offs; better ability to negotiate power rates; understanding “when” and “where” to invest in new infrastructure; optimizing payback arrangements with the LOBs; and more.

Business AgilityThis is the centerpiece of any long-term data center strategy. Because the only constant in the data center is Change itself. How efficiently can your infrastructure respond to the shifting needs of the business? What strategic changes will the data center need to make to support tomorrow’s business initiatives? Cloud? SaaS? Other leading-edge technologies? What about the role of storage and Big Data in your future?

When you add it all up, DCIM is about actionable information. Deep-dive information about your physical infrastructure with a robust toolset to analyze and act upon it so you can solve both operational and strategic challenges.

You either have a DCIM decision-support platform that can deliver on this promise … or you will need one.

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