What Infrastructure and Operations Has to Do With DCIM (Hint: A lot!)

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MATT BUSHELL<BR/>NlyteMATT BUSHELL
Nlyte

Matt Bushell, director of product and corporate marketing for DCIM software company, Nlyte Software.

I recently had the opportunity to not only exhibit at the Gartner Infrastructure and Operations show, but to attend several sessions in an effort to soak up the latest and greatest in the industry. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Gartner was saying a lot of what we, at Nlyte, have been observing. Notably:

Change is a collaborative process – Professor Eddie Obeng of the Henley School of Business gave the opening keynote, “Transforming with Confidence.” I was thinking about how his animated presentation could apply to someone thinking about bringing DCIM into their organization, but might be meeting resistance because their audience isn’t familiar with DCIM. Professor Obeng indicated that in order to see change, you need to reduce the level of fear, and data can help reduce that. What he described was a good change model:

  1. Issue – Identify the issue with the other parties (always a good practice, vs. making declarative statements).
  2. Data – Provide facts, not statements. This is huge as DCIM provides insightful reports and dashboards whereas status quo solutions (data in spreadsheets) make reporting tedious and incomplete.
  3. Question – Ask questions. For example, “What will we do together?” or “What might need to change?” Nlyte takes pride in its Workflow, where processes are mapped collaboratively, cross-functionally, often for the first time, in the Nlyte system, step by step. Often we’ll see a reduction in the process steps once they question what they see “on paper.”
  4. Build – Build the solution together, and build trust. With the latter, the formula is Promise, Do it, Remind/Confirm. Repeat this at least four times. Clearly, a well-controlled DCIM process is one that is repeatable and thus, builds trust in your ability to execute.

Business value trumps all – Jeff Brooks, the event co-host made this point in his session, “Tell the Story with Business Value Dashboards.” It came up repeatedly to the extent that infrastructure and operations teams need to convey what 99.5 percent uptime means to the business and therefore to the executive team.

For example, X number of hours down means Y processes don’t happen means Z sales don’t occur and thus, becomes a dollarized statement instead of a process statement. One instant poll of session attendees revealed that 66 percent planned to adopt ‘Business Value Dashboards’ as a primary means to communicate value to the business in the next 12 months (5 percent already had, 24 percent in the next 2 years, 5 percent not ready to think about).

While this may be a leading question, session attendees would be quick to realize how DCIM can offer customizable dashboards, and should be a good harbinger to sell to infrastructure and operations teams to help realize their desire to have business value dashboarding capabilities for their data center.

IT services are built on assets and processes – In order to build an IT service portfolio, you need a catalog of IT services, which are built upon processes and assets, upon which services and finally value can be created.

Debra Curtis and Suzanne Adnams detailed an ITSM framework for infrastructure and operations leaders, where IT maturity increases as you build upon the assets and processes.

Figure 1: Nlyte's interpretation of a presentation by Debra Curtis and Suzanne Adnams of Gartner.

Figure 1: Nlyte’s interpretation of a presentation by Debra Curtis and Suzanne Adnams of Gartner.

At Nlyte, we have demonstrated that it is best to focus first on Assets, or even things like Asset Lifecycle Management, and then to focus on what to do with those assets process-wise (for Nlyte, this is our Workflow capability).  The value and data center maturity level simply build from there.

Business value has a specific “speak” – Consistent with and building upon Jeff Brook’s session was Robert Naegle’s, “Business Value: Laying the Ground Work for High Value I&O.”

Robert had a great chart that compared IT (Feature/Function) vs. Business (Need/Benefit). In order to convey things like revenue impact, risk mitigation or cost reduction, you needed specific metrics tailored to these things, which fortunately, infrastructure and operations has strong levers for.

Business value metrics of transactions per hour, capacity utilization to plan and unplanned downtime can be greatly affected by things the infrastructure and operations team focuses on: Connectivity, Security and Compliance, Service Support and Continuity, as well as Hardware and Software – all things that DCIM helps manage.

More expensive assets have lower total cost of ownership – Jay Pultz’s session, “Significantly Reducing I&O Costs”, covered many areas but the one that stood out showed two bar charts, side by side, with a more expensive asset on the left, and a less expensive asset on the right, with two-thirds of the cost increase being due to staff the “cheaper” server. One server cost $6500, the other $5200, but the staff cost difference was $1700 per year per server.  One can only imagine what a server beyond its 3-year cycle will cost in staff support.

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