Notes from the Road: DCIM Simplified

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

Gary-Bunyan-iTRACSGARY BUNYAN
iTRACS

Physical infrastructure is one of the most complex interconnected entities on earth – a web of millions of points of connectivity and interdependency between IT, Facilities, and Building Management Systems assets.

Simplifying this complexity so you can understand and manage it to serve the needs of the business – isn’t that what Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is about?

Let me give you an example, there is an enterprise client I’ve been working with in the U.S. The partnership began with a straightforward customer request – they wanted a 100 percent accurate accounting of every asset within their data centers.

Of course, this is relatively easy for DCIM with Interactive 3-D Visualization. Asset management means discovering the asset and then storing information about it according to what the end-user wants and needs:

  • the asset itself – where and what it is
  • when it was installed
  • its serial number and asset tags
  • its depreciation schedule
  • what applications it is running
  • when its end-of-life will be
  • and so forth …

This kind of asset information can be stored in any number of static inventory repositories such as spreadsheets or 2-D drawings. Unfortunately, that’s where the information would stay – in a static environment, unaware of the changes that are occurring each and every day around the assets, with no understanding of the impacts those changes have on the assets inventoried.

But here’s what my customer learned with DCIM:

The dynamic dimensionality of Interactive 3-D Visualization presents this asset management information in-context, giving you a view of the whole interconnected ecosystem. This DCIM information is richer and more useful, since you get:

  • all of the data granularity required for efficient management of the data center, including cost reduction, risk management, and more
  • in an interactive, navigable 3-D environment that offers information in context    to drive knowledge-based decision-making
  • and lets you navigate change with speed and confidence – from the top down, from the bottom up, or through any square footage of the infrastructure you choose

Suddenly, it got very interesting for my client. Because DCIM isn’t just a pretty picture. It’s information about inter-connectivity – the actual fabric of the interconnected environment – visualized in a 3-D environment.

Inter-connectivity – In Living, Breathing 3-D

Once my customer had their interactive 3-D environment up and running, immediately they had an accurate view and they saw the potential for more uses of the DCIM software.

Complete View – They were thrilled that for the first time, they had an accurate view of their entire asset portfolio, and they knew it was accurate because the 3-D environment visually confirmed it (unlike other DCIM tools, data integrity and interconnectivity issues are impossible to hide in a 3-D model). The customer went from 68-70% accuracy to 99%+ accuracy, eliminating the inaccuracies that were directly impacting the agility, performance, and availability of their infrastructure. It was an unmistakable benefit of combining two core strengths of the software.

Going Beyond – They instantly wanted to move beyond asset management and begin tapping the true potential of the DCIM software.

They wanted to begin managing change within the environment by managing the inter-connectivity that each asset shared with all of the other assets on the floor.  This opened up new possibilities for them, providing IT with the agility essential to delivering true value to their business.

  • True Asset Management
  • Intelligent Commissioning
  • Capacity Planning
  • Impact and Analysis
  • Change Management
  • Optimization
  • Visual Alarming
  • Single Points of Failure

We’re talking about a mega data center with tens of thousands of assets and hundreds of thousands of points of connectivity. An infrastructure constantly changing, moving, and growing. This kind of infrastructure management challenge is not for the faint-of-heart or for mid-range DCIM product. But again, transforming complexity into something simple and easy-to-understand – isn’t that that DCIM is supposed do?

No Asset is an Island

All assets are inter-related. So asset management isn’t just about managing the asset. It’s about managing:

  • the impact of that asset on other assets
  • the impact of those interconnected assets on the business

It was in a meeting one day that my customer turned to me and said, with their usual clarity, “The data center isn’t about assets. It’s about inter-connectivity.”

They got it. DCIM with Interactive 3-D Visualization is not about snapshots of assets in points-in-time, but a living, organic 3-D model that allows real-time command-and-control over the ecosystem.

What was the customer’s ah-ha moment?

When they began navigating between assets and between the data. They were inside the data center itself. They weren’t navigating between “dashboards” and “images.” They were navigating between the actual devices themselves with access to real-time information for both operational and strategic decision-making.

So we began running “what if scenarios” within the 3-D environment to explore the interrelationships and interdependencies. For example, what would happen if the PDU in aisle seven went down? What devices are hanging off it – where are they and what are their vulnerabilities? How many had redundant power? How could the customer use this knowledge – created literally in seconds – to protect themselves from potential power-related failures?

Keeping It Simple

Conventional management tools would have forced my customer to run queries, searches, or filters – and then manually try to piece together these information fragments into a coherent picture. With Interactive 3-D Visualization, the customer can simply point and click. The software does the rest, instantly running a trace of the full power chain – the entire circuit from server and power strip out to PDU, junction box, and all the way out to the utility on the street.

Of course this inter-connectivity knowledge extends far beyond power management. My customer can simply select a device, interrogate it, and ask the software to display power, network, space, capacity, business output (applications), and more.

In an environment this information-rich, moves, adds, and changes are handled with speed and confidence because the inter-connectivity is yours to manage. Ambiguity is replaced by knowledge. I call it DCIM simplified. I think my customer would agree.

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