Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools are designed to track, manage, and control resource utilization and energy consumption, along with any and all IT equipment, such as servers, network switches, storage, and more. It also maintains common facility infrastructure components such as Power Distribution Units, a.k.a. PDUs, as well as computer room air conditioners, also referred to as CRACs.
Over the years, the meaning of DCIM has remained the same, but its function and definition have evolved. How so? Historically, DCIM referred to on-premise hardware, but with the advent of cloud computing and the expansion of traditional infrastructure, the gamut of DCIM also ballooned. It now represents the full array of management practices – including the assets the facility owns, determining the baseline, the good and the bad, the values, and ensuring uptime.
Achieving maximum value through correct DCIM implementation and optimization
DCIM has gone beyond being a simple IT buzzword to a real business enabler. From defining business requirements and setting operational thresholds to ensuring scalability and enabling integrations, DCIM does it all. That said, though most businesses realize the potential of an integrated DCIM solution, only a third of them actually use it, with cost and integration issues being the main adoption hurdles. However, DCIM implementation should be a manageable undertaking with the right planning.
Here’s a practical guide to help businesses start with DCIM implementation and achieve the best outcome.
- Validating what you wish to achieve: The effectiveness of a DCIM implementation relies heavily on accurately defining the requirements. Since most DCIM implementations aim to offer a comprehensive and detailed overview of various data center information sources, it is crucial to understand the existing environment thoroughly. This becomes particularly important when evaluating the effectiveness of current management systems because organizations typically have between 10 to 40 systems in place for data center management. So, it is essential to ensure that DCIM does not simply become another addition to this extensive list.
- Staying aligned to your business: DCIM solutions have the capability to generate a multitude of performance metrics encompassing capacity, consumption, availability, and recoverability within the data center. However, it is important to note that having a vast amount of information does not necessarily equate to having meaningful insights. To ensure that a DCIM implementation remains aligned with the business goals and priorities, it is crucial for IT and other departments to dedicate time to identify the metrics that truly matter. The process of mapping these metrics will vary between organizations and data centers. Organizations now require a broader range of metrics and analytics that encompass power availability, IT asset utilization, carbon emissions, and even water consumption to optimize performance and reduce data center costs. A top-tier DCIM solution will have the capability to generate metrics across a wide spectrum and adapt to emerging industry measures.
- Maintaining data quality & consistency: The foundation of every DCIM metric lies in its data streams. For these metrics to hold significance, data must be collected in real-time and consistently, with intervals that may vary depending on the specific requirements. That said, smart polling resolves the challenge of collecting data at different frequencies and addresses the issue of diverse data formats. DCIMs are designed to integrate with a wide range of protocols such as BACnet, Modbus, and SNMP. Without this interoperability, businesses would start seeing data gaps, leading to a compromised accuracy in metrics. Furthermore, discrepancies in naming conventions for different variables can significantly impact data accuracy. DCIM solutions identify these variables as synonymous and process the data accordingly. Without this intelligent capability, organizations will have inconsistent data, requiring extensive manual aggregation. By implementing a comprehensive and compatible DCIM solution, businesses can avoid the need for protocol converters and additional monitoring tools, thereby minimizing unnecessary costs and complexities.
- Establishing an effective integration: An average organization uses numerous tools to manage its data center operations, and thus integration plays a crucial role in any DCIM implementation. This includes Building Management Systems (BMS), fire detection systems, service desk ticketing platforms, physical security systems, and user authentication controls. However, among the various integration possibilities, DCIM/ BMS integration stands out as the most significant. When integrating DCIM with a BMS, organizations should identify the varied protocols used for communication with the BMS for better and more effective utilization and establish a secure connection for BMS systems hosted on isolated networks to enable smooth data import. By achieving seamless integration, organizations can also leverage automated workflows, such as incident and problem management, resulting in faster response times and optimized resource allocation.
- Protecting data and system integrity: Protecting data stored in IT systems, including DCIM, is increasingly critical. Unforeseen device and facility information vulnerabilities can potentially expose data centers to hacking risks, jeopardizing the entire operation. To maintain the security of IT and other facility data on the network, DCIM systems should adhere to the same security measures as other enterprise-level solutions. To establish robust identity and access management, organizations should ensure their DCIM solution integrates with LDAP and Active Directory. Key security considerations also include support for secure communication protocols like SNMP v3 and IP v6, as well as the ability to encrypt data between integrated systems and polled devices. Security is an ongoing process and should not be treated as a one-time activity. Alongside vulnerability testing during implementation, organizations should conduct regular tests throughout the DCIM system’s lifecycle to address emerging threats and vulnerabilities.
- Safeguarding performance levels: DCIM solutions must possess scalability to accommodate the growth of implementations. As organizations progress, they may find themselves polling thousands, or even millions, of devices and sensors, resulting in a substantial amount of data. If the DCIM architecture fails to support this scale, performance will suffer, negating many of the initial benefits. It is crucial for a DCIM solution to be capable of storing vast amounts of data for a reasonable duration without compromising performance. This necessitates the right architecture, database, schema, optimized query engines, and distributed deployment. The handling of metrics and data significantly impacts the performance of a DCIM solution. Furthermore, organizations must determine the optimal balance between granular data and ongoing system performance during implementation. Conducting a pilot with a simulated data set can help identify this balance and provide insights into future scalability requirements.
When installed right, DCIM can add value to businesses/ organizations. DCIM systems enable better operational performance and offer greater agility without unnecessary risks. They empower businesses to rapidly accelerate tasks such as routine calculations, analysis, and data collection.
To harness the advantages of DCIM, organizations must prioritize establishing appropriate integrations and configurations while also ensuring ongoing scalability and performance. Collaborating with a knowledgeable DCIM partner will enable organizations to leverage the true value of DCIM and avoid unnecessary challenges. Investing time and effort into it now will allow organizations to reap superior outcomes in the future.