Gary Bunyan is Global DCIM Solutions Specialist at iTRACS, a CommScope Company. iTRACS is a leading Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software suite provider.
I learned long ago that no two data centers are the same. No two data center teams have the exact same needs, the same plans, or the same priorities when it comes to improving performance and business output from the data center investment.
When it comes to data center infrastructure management (DCIM), I do see a common set of challenges that decision-makers expect DCIM to solve. Whether it's reducing energy costs, improving the management of the asset portfolio, or conducing “what if” scenarios on potential downtime issues, it invariably comes down to three core infrastructure challenges: Capacity, Availability and Efficiency.
This trio is what ultimately defines the physical infrastructure’s ability to serve the business. So let’s define the terms. From a DCIM perspective, here is how I would define these capabilities:
- Capacity means having the six key physical resources available (IT assets, power, space, network resources, connectivity, and cooling) to support what the business demands, when it demands it, no matter how much those needs change and evolve. And you need to use these resources wisely to extend the life of your infrastructure and defer capital expenditures wherever possible.
- Availability means maintaining a physical infrastructure that delivers the highest levels of IT services to the business to reliably meet its SLAs. This means resolving issues that can impact service to the business before they become actual events, and minimizing downtime when unpreventable events do occur.
- Efficiency means making the most of every resource and asset in your existing footprint – running the tightest possible ship at the lowest operational costs. It requires finding and eliminating the inefficiencies that plague many data centers today – out-of-control server farms, wasted power, cooling inefficiencies, etc.
So how prevalent are these issues to decision-makers? An IDC Research Survey of hundreds of data center executives in December, 2013, revealed that these three issues arise – in various combinations – across the industry. The order of priority varies from one case to the next, but all three are consistently top-tier concerns.
I’m currently working with a number of customers ranging from a global technology giant to a European bank to one of the world’s leading retailers. In each case, my customers are experiencing first-hand how a comprehensive, open software-based DCIM platform can help them in all three target challenges.
- Capacity. DCIM provides my customers with holistic insight into every asset they manage, even mapping the complex associations between IT and Facilities assets. The organizations are using predictive modeling, what-if scenarios, and analytics to make sure they’re ready for the next capacity crunch.
- Availability. What was the No. 1 challenge cited in the IDC Research survey? Downtime due to human mistakes. A whopping 70 percent of downtime issues in large data centers were attributable to human error. Considering the complexity of enterprise-scale data center environments, that’s hardly a surprise. Thousands of interconnected devices turn your racks into the world’s most expensive domino set, just waiting for the wrong device to fall and set off a cascade of failures. Fortunately, my customers are learning that the right DCIM solution will reveal and help resolve potential points of failure or problematic dependencies – not just in the power chain, but between power, IT assets, and their network patching schemes. And when natural disasters or brownouts threaten, DCIM can quickly help you safeguard available power and keep your mission-critical servers up and running while putting non-essential assets into idle.
- Efficiency. According to the IDC Survey, reducing power consumption was the No. 1 priority for today’s data center operators. Again, DCIM offers my customers the depth of insight needed to address this concern and drive down both power and space-related expenses. For instance, managers can quickly identify and decommission “ghost servers” that are consuming expensive power without supporting apps or adding value to the business.
It’s All About Innovation.
So what are customers looking for in a DCIM vendor? In a recent end-user survey by 451 Research, the results were a little surprising. But it does point to an interesting trend in how DCIM is being adopted.
451 Research surveyed 100 data center operators in 23 countries that have – or plan to adopt – a commercially-available DCIM solution or solution suite. The results showed that these operators tend to procure their DCIM solutions from multiple vendors – even those with whom they had no previous experience – based on how each solution addresses specific needs and help contribute to the overall DCIM solution. There are two takeaways here:
- Brand plays a smaller-than-expected role in customer selection. Buyers are looking for innovative DCIM technology that impacts the business from both an operational and thought leadership perspective (influence of DCIM on the larger organization).
- This multi-vendor, best-of-breed DCIM model emphasizes the importance of open frameworks and easy integration. After all, if a customer wants multiple vendors playing together, then they’d better know how to get along in the sandbox.
When it comes to capacity, availability and efficiency, a DCIM suite (or combination of DCIM solutions) can deliver the insight customers need to understand and manage modern physical infrastructure. My customers don’t want to think about challenges. They want to think about opportunities to extend the life of their data centers, do more with less, adapt to changing business needs on the fly, and drive operational costs out of the operation. They want to think outside their core competencies to new areas where they can substantively influence the business. The more comfortable they are with current operations, they more comfortable they are looking outside.
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