Why Flexibility in a DCIM Tool Is So Important

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Gary Bunyan is Global DCIM Solutions Specialist at iTRACS Corporation, a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) company. This is the fourth in a series of columns by Gary about “the user experience.” See Gary’s previous columns on 3-D Is Great, But Insight Is What Counts, Tearing Down the Silos, and DCIM User Experience.

Gary-Bunyan-iTRACSGARY BUNYAN
iTRACS

It’s pretty inspiring to watch one of your DCIM customers achieve the operational efficiencies for which DCIM was intended. For example, streamlining a workflow that used to take 2 hours before DCIM – down to a mere 15 minutes with DCIM – an 87 percent time savings!

That’s one of three very cool customer experiences I’ve had recently in Europe and the United States. Interestingly, all three customers share one thing in common – their ability to take advantage of the intuitive versatility of an open enterprise-class DCIM platform with Interactive 3-D Visualization.

These customers get it – when the DCIM environment is flexible enough to adapt its tools and workflows to the client needs – rather than forcing them to adapt to its own – this gives customers a great chance at some early “quick wins” and a rapid payback. They’re free to fluidly explore and use the solution in any way they prefer, literally on-the-fly, leveraging its database and tool set to uncover information and drive efficiency in ways that were, frankly, unimaginable before.

YOU are telling the tool what to do – it isn’t telling you.

Think of it this way. A server is a server is a server, but ask 10 different users in 10 different data centers how they interact with and manage that server, and you’ll get 10 different answers. It depends on the organization (is it an enterprise? colo provider? etc.), the role (is the person a manager? technician? etc.), and the purpose of the asset itself (does it run applications? business output? etc.)

From this perspective, no two servers, while physically the same, are managed exactly the same way. A truly open enterprise-class DCIM solution recognizes this and adjusts accordingly – it’s innately flexible enough to adapt to each organization’s needs, goals and workflows. Make that each user’s workflow. And that opens worlds of possibility for changing how things get done.

So let’s get back to my three customer visits:

Customer #1: Reducing a 2-Hour Task Down to 15 Minutes

This U.S.-based customer, an enterprise organization, had been using a manual process to put together work orders for technicians to carry on the floor when making moves, adds and changes to the data center infrastructure. It was a laborious two-hour process to pump out 50 of these work actions, and the technicians ended up with notes, spreadsheets and other materials to sift through as they tried to figure out which server goes where, power connectivity, network connectivity and so on. It was a productivity killer.

With DCIM’s automated commissioning engine, however, those 50 work actions can now be created in less than 15 minutes. Using an array of DCIM functions integrated into a process that fits the customer’s defined requirements, the customer simply tells the DCIM software what to do, and it does the rest:

  • Finds the right space for the physical asset – where it goes
  • Determines the power connectivity, including redundant power as needed
  • Determines the network connectivity – exactly what cable goes into which port, etc.
  • Outputs the work orders with clear step-by-step directions, including visuals to make sure there can be no misinterpretation
  • Lets the customer share the work orders with other constituents via CSV, reports, or other formats
  • Provides automatic updates of work progress and status
iTRACS

DCIM acts as an open-systems decision support engine. Any data point can be fed into the solution or fed from the solution using industry-standard interfaces and protocols. This gives users flexibility in how they choose to leverage the information in their decision-making. (Graphic courtesy iTRACS)

Customer #2: Optimizing the Business of IT

My second customer is a colocation company with a very different set of expectations for DCIM. Colocation vendors are in the business of providing space to clients in the most efficient and profitable way possible – delivering value to their clients while optimizing the management of space and resources.

Here, the DCIM platform must provide deep-dive business information to the colo’s data center managers, network/power teams, the sales team, and of course, to the end-user clients themselves. Let’s say the colo has a client who needs to add 15 racks. One of the key issues when adding racks is power – what is the best way to balance and manage that power? How does this affect the client’s overall energy bill? What about potential impacts on power availability for other clients within the facility? Without DCIM, gathering comprehensive, accurate answers for the colo provider had been quite a challenge. With DCIM, they can simply pose questions to the software using predictive “what if” scenarios and it will tell them:

  • The customer’s current energy bill – kilowatt per hour – based on actual power consumption readings down to the device level
  • The comparison between the charge back (what they’re being charged for) and the power they’re actually using
  • The projected additional power usage and costs when those 15 racks are added
  • The projected impact on the entire power chain, end-to-end, across the facility – where there may be impacts and potential power issues downstream, etc.

Customer #3: Optimizing A Standardized Process

My third customer is a provider of modular/containerized data center systems with yet another set of challenges.

This provider wants DCIM to help them establish and optimize a repeatable environment so they can provide high-value to clients with rapid, reliable build-outs using their modular containers. They are looking for a converged DCIM platform with granular information about all IT, Facilities and Building Management System components inside the container – right down to the “nuts and bolts.” Using this information, they want to:

  • Create a repeatable, standardized process of managing all component sets
  • Tightly manage maintenance plans and eliminate risks when scheduling maintenance, which is now possible since the DCIM solution can “see” everything at once and spot potential conflicts
  • Use alerting and trouble tickets within the DCIM system to identify and resolve issues, such as part malfunctions, before they create cascading failures
  • If and when part failures do occur – the provider needs DCIM to track all other similar parts in all other similar containers, so they can proactively avert the re-occurrence of that failure elsewhere (either at that client site or at other client installations where that part is similarly configured.)

What’s remarkable about DCIM is that everyone gets to use it a little differently. Ultimately, though, it’s all about driving efficiency, lowering costs, and eliminating risk. These are very good things, no matter what kind of infrastructure you’re managing – or why.

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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