Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is still in early stages, and still trying to find a clear identity. 2013 was a big year in terms of customer interest, and 2014 looks to be very promising. Here's a look at what's ahead for next year.
Customers are beginning to understand the value proposition of DCIM. Much like with what occurred with cloud computing, the DCIM landscape will become much clearer in 2014.
"Many DCIM vendors will become much more articulate about what they do (their value) and what they can deliver now,” said Mark Harris, Nlyte. “Prospects will vote with their dollars and essentially force DCIM vendors to focus on what they can demonstrate now. This may result in a bit less confusion for prospective buyers.”
"Part of what’s happening in the market, as the market is progressing, is there’s more clarity in terms what the customer is trying to achieve, and what vendors can and cannot do," said George Brooks, senior vice president of Enterprise Product and Market Management at CommScope.
“With so many DCIM vendors in the market, everyone is struggling to define the essential value bundle – that sweet spot between what customers will actually use and what they will pay for," said Troy Rutman, IO spokesperson. "We’ve placed our bet on a true data center operating system to manage and optimize the data center based on the real-time needs of applications. In 2014, we will see organizations increasingly looking to comprehensive software to enable dynamic shifting of workloads, integrate legacy and modular capacity, and enable sophisticated data analytics.”
Toe-Dipping on the Part of Customers
While the capabilities of DCIM are robust, customers will ease into DCIM.
"Customer prospects will spend more time thinking about the specifics of what results they need from a DCIM solution now," said Harris, Nlyle. "They may use the term DCIM as a main project title, but they will also have a set of very specific goals that they wish to achieve in short order. The two biggest goals that end-users will be looking for are capacity planning at the physical layer as well as workflow support for operations."
The Year of Analytics
"We have already seen how IT operation analytics are taking the IT management market by storm," said Suvish Viswanathan, Senior Analyst, Unified IT,ManageEngine. "Analytics are very important for DCIM as they allow for more accurate what-if analysis based on more concrete data and not on assumptions based on static historic values. Improved analytics would also help in achieving a better understanding of the total cost of ownership (TCO)."
“Data centers are one of the most complex interconnected entities, if not the most complex, ever created by humans," said Willie Bloomstein, iTRACS."Staggering amounts of data sits in that data center environment. Turning it into actionable, meaningful information is part of the value of DCIM. We tend to approach from a strategic and open perspective. What we’re seeing with analytics, what we think customers are looking for, is looking for access to a full robust analytics engine, in a very organic and intuitive fashion. We’re announcing in early 2014 myAnalytics. We're going to provide personalized, role based access to individual data reports. We believe that’s where analytics needs to go – give you an engine."
Hitting the Easy Button
“One of our prediction is really about things being easy,” said Peter Gilbert, VP, DCIM Business Strategy at CA. “What I mean by that is a greater focus on ease of installation, implementation, integration, use, more of those things. This is not unique to DCIM, we’re seeing this in other software areas as well. It’s really about our customer’s experience of getting value. The ease with which, and the speed of which you can integrate DCIM with data center environment. Obviously what it’s about is integrating different silos. You have people from facilities, IT, IT operations, Customers as well. These people don’t want to do a lot of thinking. When it comes to ease of use, that means role based views, information that’s relevant for them."
"It’s about scale and administration at scale,” continues Gilbert. “We’re seeing it pushed into much more large-scale environments. Scale – not just technical scale – it’s also about being able to be administratively scalable. When you increase your DCIM to accommodate multiple racks across many data centers, perhaps if your historical data, the process of the system needs to scale at well. The ease of which you can pull in additional data centers. Organizations don’t want a situation where it needs a lot of heavy lifting."
Multiple Single Panes of Glass
"When DCIM emerged as a concept a few years ago, many people spoke of offering a single pane of glass," said Gilbert, CA. "I think we have evolved. It’s multiple single panes of glass for different kinds of people. You might have someone who wants a financial view, someone who needs to view things on a component level. Other needing to see it from a business service level. Those different panes of glass have different content."
DCIM a Critical Part of the Software Defined Data Center
“DCIM will begin to be viewed as a critical component of virtualization, and ultimately the Software-Defined Data Center,” said Mark Harris, Nlyte. “It will be recognized that DCIM that enables the management of everything below the abstraction demarcation. DCIM will be seen as the key opportunity to manage everything below the virtualized layers.”
"2014 will be a year of convergence, continual convergence across everything: energy, building etc.," said George Brooks, CommScope. "Software-defined everything will continue, making DCIM much more pronounced to customers as we move forward."
This closely parallels what IO is predicting regarding the software defined data center:
“We expect the market to recognize the reality that, for enterprise cloud to succeed, the data center itself must be software defined, in addition to the virtual machines running within it," said Troy Rutman, IO spokesperson. "In the past, data centers have been static and opaque, making them the most challenging part of the IT stack to software define. In 2014, the data center will take its necessary position as the nexus of enterprise IT strategies. Companies that tap into this trend to optimize data center performance will have a major strategic advantage.”
Agility the Motivating Factor for DCIM
“It's about agility and speed of operation. Every year that goes by, we’re seeing an intensified focus,” said Gilbert, CA. “This is increasing continuously. People operating data centers are needed to be increasingly responsive. Businesses are expected to turn around applications faster than ever. The whole focus we have on end user experience as being absolutely key. The dependence of IT among these huge disruptive trends. How can we be more agile? Data centers need to remain reliable, but be agile enough to meet business needs. If you have a whole bunch of server equipment that needs to be online two quarters from now to meet a major application rollout, the infrastructure needs to be in place. Often, it’s not been that quick. That’s something that can be improved upon. “
Service Providers Step Up With DCIM
Digital Realty Trust made a splash when the turnkey wholesale data center giant announced it would provide DCIM, which is based on FieldView Solutions. There are some indications that this isn't a one-off, with the role of DCIM extending to a value added service for a variety of service providers. Providing a view that customers find helpful makes for one compelling value added service.
“We’ve seen an increased use of DCIM by different providers--data center and colo, telecom--we’ve seen it expand and we’ve seen it evolve,” said Gilbert, CA Technologies. "We’re starting to see some service providers use DCIM to add value. Some simple examples are things like: real-time monitoring and understanding efficiency. The service provider can help identify inefficiencies in the colo and provide that as value added information, adding additional value. Other examples include being able to offer customers DCIM at their own locations as well. We see this expanding, just as service providers and cloud providers have become increasingly important."
"Today, most of the vendors who claim to have DCIM can do either IT or facilities infrastructure management; there are very few who can do both from a single console," said Suvish Viswanathan, ManageEngine. "So one might ask, 'Why do we need integration?' Well, if you need to get complete visibility into data center operations, then DCIM must be in a position to connect the dots and include key performance indicators to allow informed decisions. A holistic DCIM will have an integrated CMDB which will ensure that all vendor information about IT or facilities infrastructure is stored in a single location. This would allow customers to do a deep dive into relationships between various dependent assets and ensure asset lifecycle management is well taken care."
"2014 will be the year of Open DCIM," said Bloomstein, iTRACs. "We don’t mean open source code, what we really believe is that the natural evolution is to be an open platform. Open so that it can connect to and work with other systems and data. In 2014 we’ll continue to see that, companies trying to create open environments. It gives customers opportunity rather than obstacles. We provide that core value, we're able to take the information from various systems and make sense of that information. We don’t believe that there is one solution that will be the end-all. iTRACs is not trying to be a redundant system, but rather is there to be a tool to help facilitate the understanding and interdependencies. It why in 2014 we’ll continue to see that; companies trying to create open environments.
More Consolidation and Shakeout, Fewer Partnerships
Many predicted that more integrations would occur, and that partnerships would take a back seat to the API. Rather than partnering, integrations and consolidation are the way forward for the industry, and the way all the pieces will connect.
"In the past, we have seen many partnerships between big vendors fail due to various reasons, leaving customers in the middle," said Viswanathan, ManageEngine. " It might not happen at the same rate in the future, but this will result in either more acquisitions or vendors coming up with more management capabilities. In one way, it is good news for customers as they don’t have to deal with various vendors, and teams can get a better deal from a single vendor. On the other hand, we might see more and more vendors opening their APIs to make it more developer-friendly to integrate with existing systems.
"What we’re seeing is the shakeout of an early stage market," said Brooks, CommScope. What we expect to see is more consolidation and marriages of convenience, if you will. Many vendors claiming to be DCIM are finding themselves in a position to partner, but ultimately it will be about being open."