Putting Your DCIM Plan into Action

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Lara Greden is a senior principal, strategy, at CA Technologies. Her previous post The Road to Acquiring DCIM: A Q & A Primer appeared in September 2013.

LaraGreden-tnLARA GREDEN
CA Technologies

More and more companies are recognizing the value of DCIM–not only to the operations of their data centers but to their core business functions. The need for DCIM is driven by the realities of today’s data centers: increased automation, significant growth in compute and storage, and that many organizations are taking a portfolio approach, including owned data centers, leased or collocated facilities, Software as a Service (SaaS) and managed services.

These realities mean that data centers simply can’t be operated the same way as before. This is the crux of a blog post by Terrence Clark on Three Misconceptions about Data Center Management. One misconception is that if you have plenty of data center management tools and a great facilities management team, you’re covered. But as the blog explains, this doesn’t go nearly far enough to keep up with the reality of today’s hybrid data center environment, which is a mix of virtual and physical systems and the application layer.

For example, rapidly shifting workloads can cause hotspots and power surges. What’s required is the convergence between IT and Facilities Management. That is the heart of a strategic approach to DCIM.

Defining DCIM strategy at your organization

Defining DCIM strategy entails considering the beginning, middle, and end of your business objectives. Getting an early win with the implementation is important, but the overall investment value is defined by the roadmap for your DCIM strategy – covering software and hardware that comprise the monitoring, intelligent alerting, reporting, asset lifecycle management, 3D visualization, and more that ultimately help data center operators improve capacity, reduce risk, and improve business service delivery.

A Forrester Research Inc. report titled “CIOs Should Get Real About Real Options Thinking In Their BT Plans And Messages” (July 15, 2013) by analyst Chip Gliedman states it well, “With firms depending more on IT to facilitate business changes, a flexible and adaptable set of technologies, platforms, and processes needs to be in place. This means that IT must also acquire the “option” to move rapidly in response to the business’ needs.”

DCIM gives organizations several options for responding to business needs via the data center infrastructure. For example, the analytics capability from bringing together the physical and virtual components of the environment helps companies plan for and meet capacity needs with improved efficiency and accuracy at lower cost.

From an overall IT and business strategy, you may see DCIM as connected to a larger effort to consolidate IT vendors, or to replace aging systems that don’t provide the automation needed for today’s business. I’ve seen a large financial institution marry IT capacity management with the physical capacity management of DCIM to help support a vision of enterprise capacity management.

Another recent example was a Fortune 500 company that viewed its DCIM strategy as bringing together the following key areas to improve data center management and business service delivery: environmental management, systems monitoring, white space and capacity planning, asset management, and incident and request management. Increasingly, organizations are also using DCIM to strategically manage and assess their portfolio of data center infrastructure, including owned, colo and cloud.

Putting your plan into action

Work closely with your vendor as you put your DCIM strategy into action and ensure that your DCIM software addresses your requirements with a rich set of capabilities. I’ve repeatedly seen data center operators overcome what were viewed as major hurdles by working with a provider with extensive knowledge of software deployment, IT systems, and the power, cooling, and other data center infrastructure systems.

Finally, DCIM is fundamentally about scale. Its value comes from monitoring and normalizing hundreds or thousands of data points via integrating with your existing data center, augmenting that monitoring with rich analytics and intelligent alerting, and by being able to do that across all of your data center sites. If the architecture of the solution doesn’t support the scale of an environment, then speed and agility of operations won’t be supported. To maximize the value of the technology, you’ll want a horizontal architecture that can be extended as needed.

You should attempt to find out how the technology behind your DCIM investment is working out at similar organizations, whether in a similar region, similar data center scale, or in your industry vertical. DCIM is a strategic technology investment for which a focused, disciplined approach will pay off with numerous benefits to your business. And if you choose one that is easy to deploy and intuitive to navigate, everyone will benefit.

An upcoming post will look at the value of DCIM in colo data centers.

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