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What’s Driving (and Inhibiting) DCIM Software Adoption?

Analysts forecast steady but slowing DCIM market growth for next four years

Enterprises are building fewer and fewer data centers of their own, increasingly choosing to outsource operation of the infrastructure for their application workloads to cloud, colocation, and other types of service providers, who in turn are accelerating data center construction. More data center construction is taking place in edge markets, while corporate IT infrastructure is becoming increasingly distributed and orchestrated via software.

Together, these trends are continuing to drive adoption of DCIM software products, the market for which continues to grow, albeit not at the pace vendors predicted it would grow several years ago, when the concept of a stand-alone Data Center Infrastructure Management software market came to being. In some ways, however, they are also inhibiting market growth.

Jennifer Cooke, research director at IDC who focuses on data center management, highlighted these trends in an update on the DCIM software market during a webinar produced by the research firm Thursday.

Read more: Who is Winning in the DCIM Software Market

IDC expects year-over-year market growth rate to climb between 2015 and this year but then start declining. This doesn’t mean the market will be shrinking; it will continue growing, but at an increasingly slower rate until 2020, according to the analysts:

IDC DCIM growth forecast 15-20

Source: IDC

As enterprise data center construction slows, IT organizations are under growing pressure to get more out of their existing infrastructure, often looking to DCIM as a way to get there. Meanwhile, as more IT infrastructure shifts to outsourced facilities, users need tools that give them visibility into those resources, which is also something DCIM can help with.

Remote visibility is also a factor that’s driving DCIM adoption by companies using points of presence in edge markets, whose construction is on the rise. Qualified staff aren’t as readily available in many of those remote areas as they are in the big metros, and edge data center operators increasingly opt for “lights-out” data centers, managed remotely, Cooke explained.

One of the biggest drivers for DCIM software adoption in the near future, however, will be the transition to software-defined infrastructure. “Data centers will increasingly be viewed not as physical business but as pools of resources that can be drawn on when needed,” Cooke said.

Abstraction of hardware components and unified infrastructure and service orchestration requires a layer of software abstraction for the underlying physical data center resources: power, cooling, and space. DCIM is that abstraction layer and a critical building block for software-defined infrastructure, according to IDC:

IDC DC infrastructure abstraction

Source: IDC

Many DCIM tools on the market today, however, are lacking key functionality that enables them to connect to and enable the digital transformation of data centers, and this is one of the factors that inhibit the market’s growth, Cooke said.

The shift of more resources to outsourced IT infrastructure from on-prem facilities is another growth inhibitor, working both for and against the overall DCIM market. While use of DCIM tools by colocation providers and their users is on the rise, there will be fewer and fewer end user-operated facilities that need these management tools.

The third growth inhibitor Cooke pointed out is the high number of existing, legacy management systems in data centers. Surveying data center operators, IDC found that many have between seven and 12 management platforms running today, which often overlap. This is a result of the legacy silo approach to data center management, where there are separate management systems for power, cooling, building, IT, etc., making operators reluctant to add yet another management system into the mix.

Replay of the webcast is available here for free.

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