As with any investment in the data center, the question of the return on the investment should be raised before purchasing a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solution. In the APC white paper, "How Data Center Infrastructure Management Software Improves Planning and Cuts Operational Costs," the authors highlight the savings from a DCIM solution saying, “The deployment of modern planning tools can result in hundreds of man-hours saved per year and thousands of dollars saved in averted downtime costs.”
DCIM will not transform your data center overnight, but it will begin the process. While it isn't necessary to reach the full level of maturity before seeing benefits, the areas of benefit are significant and can bring results in the short-term. The three primary methods in which DCIM provides ROI are:
- Improved Energy Efficiency
- Improved Availability
- Improved Manageability
DCIM Leads to Improved Energy Efficiency
In his blog, Dan Fry gets right to the heart of DCIM’s role in improving energy efficiency when he says, “To improve energy efficiency inside the data center, IT executives need comprehensive information, not isolated data. They need to be able to ‘see’ the problem in order to manage and correct it because, as we all know, you can’t manage what you don’t understand.”
The information provided by DCIM can help data center managers in reducing energy consumption:
Matching Supply with Demand
Oversizing is one of the biggest roadblocks to energy efficiency in the data center. In an APC survey of data center utilization, only 20 percent of respondents had a utilization of 60 percent or more, while 50 percent had a utilization of 30 percent or less. One of the primary factors for oversizing is the lack of power and cooling data to help make informed decisions on the amount of infrastructure required. DCIM solutions can provide information on both demand and supply to allow you to “right-size” the infrastructure, reducing overall energy costs by as much as 30 percent.
Identifying Under-utilized Servers
As many as 10 percent of servers are estimated to be “ghost servers,” servers which are running no applications, yet still consume 70 percent or more of the resources of a fully-utilized server. DCIM solutions can help to find these under-utilized servers Which could be decommissioned, re-purposed or consolidated as well as servers which do not have power management functionality enabled, reducing IT energy usage as well as delaying the purchase of additional servers.
Measuring the Impact of Infrastructure Changes
DCIM tools can measure energy efficiency metrics such as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), Data Center Infrastructure Efficiency (DCiE) and Corporate Average Datacenter Efficiency (CADE). These metrics serve to focus attention on increasing the energy efficiency of data centers and to measure the results of changes to the infrastructure. In the white paper "Green Grid Data Center Power Efficiency Metrics: PUE and DCiE," the authors lay out the case for the introduction of metrics to measure energy efficiency in the data center. The Green Grid believes that several metrics can help IT organizations better understand and improve the energy efficiency of their existing data centers as well as help them make smarter decisions on new data center deployments. In addition, these metrics provide a dependable way to measure their results against comparable IT organizations.
DCIM solutions can improve availability in the following areas:
Understanding the Relationship Between Devices
A DCIM solution can help to answer questions such as “What systems will be impacted if I take the UPS down for maintenance?” It does this by understanding the relationship between devices, including the ability to track power and network chains. This information can be used to identify single points of failure and reduce downtime due to both planned and unplanned events.
Improved Change Management
When investigating an issue, examination of the asset’s change log allows problem managers to recommend a fix over 80 percent of the time, with a first fix rate of over 90 percent. This reduces the mean time to repair and increases system availability. DCIM systems which automate the change management process will log both authorized and unauthorized changes, increasing the data available to the problem manager and increasing the chances the issue can be quickly resolved.
Root Cause Analysis
One of the problems sometimes faced by data center managers is too much data. Disconnecting a router from the network might cause tens or hundreds of link lost alarms for the downstream devices. It is often difficult to find the root cause amidst all of the “noise” associated with cascading events. By understanding the relationship between devices, DCIM solution can help to narrow the focus to the single device — the router, in this case — which is causing the problem. By directing focus on the root cause, the problem can be resolved more quickly, reducing the associated downtime.
DCIM solutions can improve manageability in the following areas:
Data Center Audits
Regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPA and CFR-11 increase the requirements for physical equipment audits. DCIM solutions provide a single source of the data to greatly reduce the time and cost to complete the audits. Those DCIM tools utilizing asset auto-discovery and asset location mechanisms such as RFID can further reduce the effort to perform a physical audit.
DCIM can be used to determine the best place to deploy new equipment based on the availability of rack space, power, cooling and network ports. It then can be used to track all of the changes from the initial request through deployment, system moves and changes, all the way through to decommissioning. The DCIM solution can provide detailed information on thousands of assets in the data center including location, system configuration, how much power it is drawing, relationship to other devices, and so on, without having to rely on spreadsheets or home-grown tools.
With a new or expanded data center representing a substantial capital investment, the ability to postpone new data center builds could save millions of dollars. DCIM solutions can be used to reclaim capacity at the server, rack and data center levels to maximize space, power and cooling resources. Using actual device power readings instead of the overly conservative nameplate values will allow an increase in the number of servers supported by a PDU without sacrificing availability. DCIM tools can track resource usage over time and provide much more accurate estimates of when additional equipment needs to be purchased.