DCIM Meets ITSM to Close the Gap Between IT and Facilities

Convergence between the two is on the rise, some experts saying DCIM will become a subset of ITSM software category

Jason Verge

July 24, 2015

6 Min Read
DCIM Meets ITSM to Close the Gap Between IT and Facilities
Sutter Health data center team is excited about the potential for DCIM and ITSM convergence. Pictured: Sutter Hospital in Sacramento, California.(Image: McCarthy Building Companies’ website)

Facilities and IT are converging, driven by the desire for a more holistic picture that shows how IT and the data center facility are interrelated, and at the core of it all is the desire to understand what it costs to deliver a service. To this end, two well-known acronyms in the data center industry are converging: DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) and ITSM (IT Service Management).

“Modern data centers are beginning to integrate data from DCIM and ITSM systems for end-to-end visibility and management,” said Rhonda Ascierto, a research director for data center technologies at 451 Research. “Ultimately, these and other integrations with DCIM data will enable greater automation -- the 'software-driven data center.'”

Adding DCIM data to ITSM can improve performance and availability across the data center and yield new granular information about the true cost of running an IT service, she said.

ITSM Integration Helps Sutter Health See DCIM Value

DCIM software vendor Nlyte’s recent integration with three ITSM platforms is one of many recent examples of DCIM providers capturing this evolution. Nlyte customer Sutter Health epitomizes the reasons this convergence is occurring.

Sutter Health is a not-for-profit healthcare system in Northern California that works a lot on patient experience. Prior to DCIM, its data center team “lived and died by the spreadsheet,” said Brian Desberg, director of enterprise data center operations at Sutter Health. He joined the company two years ago.

“There was a lot of tracking assets on spreadsheets and a number of different systems; and various people tracked various things,” said Desberg. “This posed a problem because there was also a lot of reliance on legacy knowledge.”

One of the first questions asked, said Desberg, was how many servers there were in the data center. Sutter had six data centers managed with spreadsheets and tribal knowledge. When asking how many servers they had, the number given was "pretty close with around an 80-percent confidence level." But "pretty close" only counts in horseshoe and hand grenade throwing of course.

Sutter was a good candidate for DCIM, but it needed to be sold to the executive team. And ITSM integration was how Desberg's team was ultimately able to justify the cost. Both facilities and IT are important, so convincing adoption of just a facilities monitoring tool is hard.

"In ITSM by itself without DCIM data companies are making guesses or simply not factoring in the cost of the physical data center layer -- the critical equipment, space, power, and so on -- that IT services run on," Ascierto said. Converging the two helps position DCIM as a hub for the entire picture, making for easier cost justification.

Sutter is a BMC Software shop. The tools were not integrated, and the organization didn’t have the ability to predict how a change may affect the infrastructure as a whole. Desberg said Nlyte initially stood out because of its ability to integrate with the BMC tool suite through a connector. The recent Nlyte ITSM announcement was of a deeper integration.

“To integrate with BMC and orchestrate through a process workflow will be tremendous,” said Desberg. “We struggled mightily in regards to change management and adoption of ITSM. We’re doing both now and going full speed ahead. “

Desberg said that the integration is key in determining ‘what if?’ scenarios: what if something goes online? Who are the business owners? The next generation, said Desberg, allows Sutter to do full orchestration of all ITSM, including lifecycle configuration and change management.

“We recently did an all-hands meeting and the focus was on eliminating all of the errors that come out of change management,” said Desberg. “One of the problems was we didn’t have a full picture of the environment."

ROI Story Fuzzy, But Benefits are Clear

Much of the DCIM software industry messaging is spearheaded with the potential Return On Investment of DCIM.

“Less than a full year into it, I haven’t seen the full savings yet outside the labor costs,” said Desberg. “However, we do things much faster now. We can run reports instantly, see what tools do, who owns them. The potential save in the event of unplanned downtime would be a huge save in itself in terms of our ability to recover.”

Desberg also dispelled the common notion that DCIM is hard to set up initially. Implementation took 90 days, the team consisting of staff from both Nlyte and BMC walking through installation with Sutter’s administration. Ten employees at Sutter then went through DCIM training.

In terms of expanding DCIM usage, the company just added Nlyte’s audit tool into the mix. Nlyte is currently licensed in two of Sutter’s six data centers, as Sutter, like many enterprises, is looking to consolidate legacy infrastructure. Desberg said Nlyte will help with this consolidation, particularly in terms of capacity management.

Subset of ITSM?

The initial wave was connectors, but now a fuller, deeper DCIM and ITSM convergence and integration is occurring. Raritan, another DCIM software vendor, even called DCIM a subset of ITSM when it announced a ServiceNow integration.

CommScope and HP recently partnered to blend DCIM and ITSM. “It’s not just about the data center, it’s about the relationship between data center and the business,” said CommScope’s director strategic solutions and marketing William Bloomstein.

ServiceNow is in the middle of an IT sandwich, also integrating with cloud management provider RightScale, making for ITSM that can leverage cloud infrastructure in delivering services. The RightScale integration speaks to an extension of DCIM and ITSM integration to cloud management – three very different worlds.

“Having insight into the physical layer from DCIM is helping managers decide where an IT service should run; in which data center, room or rack; when to run it based on business requirements; and, critically, whether it should run on-premises or in a third-party facility,” said Ascierto. “While DCIM today is sometimes still considered nonessential, the proliferation of low-cost, high-availability public cloud services is changing that view. For a growing number of companies, data from DCIM is required to support best execution venue strategies. As more businesses focus on best execution, we believe more IT and even financial departments will drive new DCIM deployments over time. Ultimately, combining DCIM data with other systems will enable automation.“

The convergence of DCIM and ITSM is essentially an integration of integrations -- DCIM itself is already an integration platform. 451 coined the term "Data Service Optimization," or DSO, for the new breed of DCIM and ITSM. “In order to get this visibility, it is necessary to integrate – that is, build real-time, usually bi-directional, links between DCIM and other systems,” said Ascierto.

Will ITSM and DCIM become one? The two systems may eventually merge into a single offering, according to Ascierto. "DCIM features are likely to remain distinct components (in a combined offering) because the complexity of managing data center power and cooling resources lends itself to a dedicated system," she said.

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