DCIM – Yes but…

I am often asked about what DCIM is and what value adds it brings to the company.  My consultation mandates bring me to work with engineering firms that know a lot about BMS (Building Management System) solutions. These solutions deal mainly with data from electromechanical devices such as UPS, air conditioning units, generators.  The data center manager needs this information but a BMS is only one part of its requirements to properly maintain a data center. A DCIM solution adds new elements of visibility within the data center. The cabinet is now part of the equation. The warm / cold air flux within the data center in between cabinets, the notion of available space and the remaining electrical capability left in a cabinet are all important parameters to manage effectively a data center. But is it enough? Is this added capability really justified for the implementation of such a tool? Is the value add generated by this solution justify the effort to operationalize it? Are we to stop just before the real value add is generated for the business?

Throughout the previous articles, we analyzed the importance of having a good inventory within its data centers as well as how to collect the required information. We also discussed the reasons why companies implement data center management tools. We are now at the phase where we want to pick such a solution / tools that will allow us to better manage our assets and add value for the IT department.

The value of such a tool resides in the quality and type of the data maintained within the solution.  Human nature being what it is, it is important to keep in mind the following:

  • If I am to use it,  I need value add
  • Having no spare time, effort to maintain the data must be minimal
  • Information must be pertinent and easy to find.

Considering the above and knowing that a data center is an ecosystem in which numerous departments / individuals with different interests revolve around it, you need to pick the right tool.

The main interest for the following groups is:

  • Data center manager: Available room capacity
  • Buyer: An inventory of equipment / licenses
  • Finance: The cost of goods
  • IT architect: Equipment configuration.
  • System admin: Configuration parameters
  • Incident manager: Impact analysis
  • Clients: Visualization of their assets

All these actors need specific information whether in a read mode or in very specific conditions in writing mode. Their interests being different, the solution must supply them with specific views that will allow them to easily interpret the information in a visual manner if possible.

At this point, it seems risky to try to respond to the needs of such a large crowd with only one tool. However, these needs all relate to the same element: The IT component that is required by the customer. The parameters / attributes that define those components can be numerous, but their management is not that more difficult because of the quantity. Before going further: beware of the artifacts that do not add any real value to the information. You want to make sure that it is not a nice to have, but really of value for the service you want to deliver. Another important aspect that you need to consider is the fact that the solution can tie in nicely with applications that you currently use.  Example: Is it really necessary to add a new CAD application when you already own Microsoft Visio in your operation?

It is important to increase the maturity level of your organization in adding value. The solution must help you to minimize the risks, the costs and help you take decisions. For that, you must be able to visualize complexity, understand interdependence and accelerate the decision process. To achieve this, different views are expected by the main actors:

  • Financial and purchasing
  • Service impacts
  • Electrical impacts
  • Component configurations
  • LAN / WAN / SAN connections
  • Data center plan
  • Equipment location
  • Relationship: Customer / application / databases / virtual server / physical server

Those solutions exist. I have personally implemented in a short time span some complex installations. Early on , even during  implementation, the customer  found some ROI, at different  levels. The requirements are that your evaluation criteria’s be well thought of, that your project plan is defined and the business process in line with your vision.


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