Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

The Business of Data Centers: Efficiencies and the Role of DCIM

As data center traffic continues to grow, data center providers need to deliver their services as adeptly as possible, writes Kate Baker of Custodian Data Centre.

5 Min Read
The Business of Data Centers: Efficiencies and the Role of DCIM

Kate Baker is a business strategist at Custodian Data Centre.

In January 2014 a Silicon Angle blog post estimated that global data center traffic will grow threefold (a 25 percent CAGR) from 2012 to 2017, whilst Uptime Institute figures have noted that data centers consume up to 3 percent of all global electricity production.

Cloud growth between 2011 and 2012 saw public cloud adoption increase from just 2 to 25 percent and other commentators such as The International Energy Agency has suggested that the world’s energy needs could be 50 percent higher in 2030 than they are today.

Increased usage means increased efficiency

With growth figures such as these and most industry commentators agreeing that trends show a shift from data stored in-house to either cloud providers or data centers, the onus is on data centers to deliver their services as adeptly as possible.

Efficiencies in the data center ecosystem are vastly important - from data center design to which server to use, the amount of processing that can be achieved on a physical footprint can differ enormously.

At the heart of a data center is its ability to maintain and sustain access to an energy source 100 percent of the time. Every adjustment, efficiency initiative needs to ensure resilience is built into the decision making process. It is more important than ever for organizational change to be inextricably linked with this modus operandi of the data center.

But it is not enough to simply say we must stay on. Power at all costs is not a transaction that data centers can afford; there is not an infinite pool of money to pay for soaring energy bills and inefficient data center solutions.

DCIM development: off-site and in-house

Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) has been heralded by many organizations as the solution companies need in order to drive forward efficiencies and provide data center operators with a universal set of metrics to enhance their strategic planning. It also helps to ensure that a data center has the capacity to deliver what is required and the awareness to always remain on.

DCIM is seen as an effective way of delivering core infrastructure challenges on a smaller budget. However, can the same be said of a DCIM product? Can out of the box DCIM solutions truly meld and seamlessly interlink effectively with a data center if it is not developed by the data center itself?

Whilst the overreaching trends of data center needs are similar, two data centers rarely have identical needs. The key to DCIM is the management of the data and information created; if developed off-site it is imperative that the engineers utilizing the information can use it effectively for what they need it to do.

Some data centers, rather than operate DCIM products, design their systems in-house so that if there is a problem or a fault, they can find or adapt it.They are writing a specific piece of bespoke code for their own infrastructure.

Some of these data centers have calculated that during the early few weeks of deployment of their own data center information management systems they have recouped more than the cost of all the hardware via the energy savings they made. This is usually the justification for most DCIM systems.

Finding the right solution

Not all data centers have this level of in-house expertise and for companies that choose to adopt DCIM products the benefits can enable them to streamline and manage their infrastructure.Yet with so many aspects of DCIM to cover, can a total vendor DCIM product be the best solution for each system? That is not to say that DCIM products are good or bad, it is more a question of finding the right solution for each data center, once again bearing in mind the myriad of variables between data centers and their design.

As such one could suggest that data centers might be best to take a modular approach to their DCIM strategy rather than one complete solution and thus risk compromising on one part of their management system.

The counter-argument to that approach is the question of whether different vendor solutions can work compatibly with each other. Data center operators naturally want the best for their facility and compromise is not a term that sits well within the day-to-day ethos and running of a facility. They demand the best. If one vendor supplies the best capacity DCIM planning solution for them and a competitor holds the key to the right network solution, they expect and will demand that they will work together.

DCIM and employee skills gap

In July 2013 the Data Centre Alliance raised concerns about skills shortages in the data center industry, with a real focus on ensuring prospective data center employees have the right critical thinking skills to work in the data center industry. Crucially, they need the ability to see the parts and the whole of the data center, as well as the inter-relations simultaneously in order to prevent a major outage.

DCIM is the software/program buttress to those skills and whether developed in-house or by a vendor is a crucial tool in order to help manage the thousands of variables occurring daily within a data center.

For some data centers, their role within a business is to support the day-to-day workings of the company’sbusiness operations, which in turncan have an impact on the company’s bottom line. For a colocation provider, their whole business is being a data center - their bottom line solely depends on the data center performing at optimal levels. Regardless of the type, data center infrastructure management or DCIM vendor solutions must be carefully evaluated and implemented.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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