Canon’s DCIM Needs Centered Around Integrating With Existing Systems

Canon’s single biggest concern in its search for a DCIM vendor was the ability for it to integrate with existing systems. The company wanted a vendor that not only worked with other systems in place, but one that could act as the foundation for things to come.

Canon has data centers across Virginia and New York consisting of 3,000 physical servers, and when it decided to open a second New York data center, it wanted to start on the right foot. That meant changing the way it was doing things, such as using spreadsheets to track physical infrastructure managed across two teams. Within the two data centers, there were several other teams all using individual spreadsheets to track their concerns.

The fact that the infrastructure behind these teams was interrelated caused problems, and the spreadsheet method meant that each did not have the same or accurate information. As a result, the infrastructure management team wanted to bring in more formalized tools.

DCIM is a broad term, although it’s incorrectly being pigeonholed as a tool for power and cooling management. Because of obfuscation with the term DCIM, many assess whether they need DCIM from solely a power and cooling management perspective. This was not Canon’s approach.

Its primary needs surrounded integrating with ITSM and other systems in order to gain insight into what was going on with the servers, rather than just the wider facility environment. The key to its successful deployment was knowing immediate needs and growing from there.

Nlyte’s Vice President of Marketing Mark Harris suggested removing “DCIM” from their vocabularies and talking about needs instead. In Canon’s case, the big need was integrating with existing systems. This tipped the scales in favor of Nlyte.

“DCIM has significant value at the power and cooling level, but I think it has larger fiscal value at the IT side of it - what’s in the rack, why it’s there, and who owns it,” said Harris. “It’s about more than keeping things running; it’s about keeping things running at the right cost.”

Canon needed to tie DCIM into ITSM systems, service management, ticketing, and all general ledgers. Integration capabilities are not a “yes/no” checkbox when selecting a DCIM vendor; the answer is always yes, said Harris.

“A selling point of Nlyte was the off-the-shelf integrations with some products that we already had, and with some that we didn’t currently have. But we are beginning to realize what we need as a large enterprise organization,” said Sean Hendershot, manager for Canon’s U.S.A. data center ops and IT infrastructure division. “What Nlyte has done is provided us with the push of ‘we need to stop doing it the old way and start doing it a better way.’”

Nlyte has created several out-of-the-box connectors, which means it will not only integrate with existing systems but will continue to do so easily.

The alternative is getting a programmer in every once in a while to sit down and make a connection, which creates ongoing expenses and headaches. Canon’s other systems frequently update, and Nlyte updates as well. Using thousands of lines of code written once is a risky way of doing things.

DCIM should be viewed as a long-term, big enterprise class system, which will be in place for dozens of years. Since an enterprise’s other systems will change over time, it’s not about if it integrates, but if it will continue to integrate as the makeup of an enterprise’s systems evolve.

”The main value of DCIM is discipline,” said Harris. “Yes, it’s a bunch of tools, but the big value is it gives you a purpose built platform to design and build processes, and to perform processes by design rather than reaction.”

An unforeseen effect of Canon using DCIM was that it ended up choosing against the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) in conjunction with Nlyte. Nlyte’s strength is in managing the lifecycle of assets so its strength meant that Canon was able to use Nlyte as the single source of information.

The infrastructure management team provisioned and briefly trained application users directly on the Nlyte system. These business users can now direct where their hardware or virtual machines are running. Beyond the core team of six daily users, there are now more than 250 of these application owners that access Nlyte on an as-needed basis.

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