Beware the Closed System: Just Integrate

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LARA GREDEN<BR/>CA TechnologiesLARA GREDEN
CA Technologies

Lara Greden is a senior principal, strategy, at CA Technologies. Her previous post was titled, Leaders Achieve Best Practice With DCIM. You can follow her on Twitter at @laragreden.

When done right, DCIM software integrations can provide tremendous value to your business. First, they allow you to leverage investments that have already been made, such as representing data flows and applications from a wide variety of vendors. Second, software that is architected to integrate with other systems, as opposed to having a closed architecture, enables an organization to make the best decisions for future investments. However, there is a caveat that you should be mindful of when choosing DCIM software – be careful that your selection doesn’t lock you into a limited subset of power, cooling, rack and other hardware choices just so that it will integrate with your DCIM software.

It sounds straightforward, but there are several reasons why integration may present challenges. These challenges can be categorized in two ways: integrations to receive and/or share data, and integrations with other applications to support workflows. First we will address the category of data integrations, and in next month’s column we’ll examine considerations for application integrations.

Consolidating Systems Drives DCIM

Data integrations are often the number one driver to acquire enterprise scale DCIM software as organizations look to eliminate the labor-intensive task of going to ten, fifty, or even a hundred different systems to get accurate power, space and cooling data. Chances are that if you have a portfolio of data centers, you likely have multiple people carrying out the same task of peering into the separate interfaces to collect data. Whether one data center or many, DCIM software represents an opportunity to improve efficiency, accuracy, and risk management for monitoring critical data points.

Another major driver for DCIM is that while various teams, including facilities, IT operations and capacity planning teams, require power, space and cooling data, their efforts are often limited today due to siloes. This slows down or inhibits capacity planning processes that can lead to over capacity and over spending; or, alternatively, results in hidden risk. As an enterprise application, DCIM software provides the technology that helps data center teams work together towards a common cause – fundamentally helping the business grow and be more profitable. It also helps these teams be more efficient with their time, accurate with their analysis, and improve the quality of decision making.

However, data integrations can present a challenge because equipment vendors don’t always follow the same protocols or naming conventions. For example, inlet temperature may be called TempIn in one data source, while it is called inlet_temp in another. Not all DCIM software solutions are alike when it comes to their ability to normalize data from across various data sources. Some solutions do it automatically, while others require custom work that requires expensive professional services. This can be further complicated if there are additional challenges that affect access to the data.

Avoiding Vendor Lock-in

An experienced DCIM software provider will help you address any challenge that your internal architecture may present as well as understand how the systems themselves configure and communicate the essential data. If you want to maintain the freedom and flexibility to make decisions on future hardware choices for reasons other than whether or not your DCIM software will integrate with them, be sure to ask your short list of DCIM vendors for their practical experience and approach to integration.

Fundamentally, DCIM software that is architected to integrate with heterogeneous data sources will bring the benefits of DCIM to a larger audience. It allows service providers to proactively monitor their customers’ environment and even schedule services before availability and performance are at risk.  It allows resellers who previously focused on providing power and cooling hardware to also serve their customers’ needs to manage power, space, and cooling using DCIM software, and thereby further leverage their unique value-add of understanding their customers’ data center environments, architecture, and business objectives. Most fundamentally, for the end customer, DCIM software that provides integration across the entire data center footprint will deliver faster time to value and help future proof IT investments.

Remember the truism “just integrate” as you lead your business forward in the DCIM maturity process.

Check back next month as we continue the discussion on the value of DCIM integration and application and workflow integration. 

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