The promise of Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is certainly alluring. Not only do you get to shift workflows across available resources, but you can then power down idle hardware and funnel electricity only where it is needed. In the end, this produces a better power-consumption-to-data-productivity ratio and extends the lifecycle of server, storage and networking infrastructure.
But this kind of automation is not easy. As anyone with DCIM experience will tell you, integrating the software into legacy environments, even Greenfield deployments, is fraught with difficulty. And this is why many DCIM providers are starting to provide pre-integrated solutions for leading data center platforms.
A case in point is Schneider Electric, which this week announced that it has teamed up with HP to integrate the StruxureWare DCIM solution into the OneView management stack. This allows both data and facilities managers to view and manipulate the power and data infrastructures from a single platform. At the same time, it offers key capabilities like live, two-way communication and data sharing to break down the silos that each side typically operates within.
Few organizations rely on single-vendor solutions, however, which is why leading DCIM providers are striving for a more universal approach to integration. Altima Technologies, for instance, recently added a common integration framework to its NetZoomDC solution designed to enhance interoperability with third-party systems and applications. The system is designed to provide a comprehensive view of the data center by tapping into a wide range of technologies, such as CMDBs, hypervisors and RFID devices, without requiring customized coding. In addition, the NetZoomDC Out-of-Box offering provides built-in integration to leading platforms like Remedy, ServiceNow, vSphere, Hyper-V and RF Code.
DCIM is about more than just efficiency and cost-savings, says Data Center Knowledge’s Bill Kleyman, it’s about building the foundation for the agile data center. As social networking, data mobility, Big Data and a host of other initiatives task the data center with a wide range of functions and user requirements, the need to rapidly shift loads across various architectures and data environments has become critical. Going forward, the agility that comes from dynamically allocating both data resources and the power they consume will be a key strategic differentiator between successful, leading enterprises and those who follow. It is the difference between providing a collection of software-defined applications and services and an integrated data environment that addresses key business requirements in ways that can be both measured and metered.
The cost savings are nothing to be sneezed at, however, says Steve Brasen of Enterprise Management Associates. One media company he has reviewed reported annual power cost savings of $500,000 through the consolidation opportunities revealed by DCIM. Another firm trimmed its admin time sheet by 480 hours by automating the data center audit process with DCIM. While many data center executives spend the majority of their time concentrating on immediate problem-solving, the fact is that a successful implementation of DCIM can remove many of these day-to-day operational issues, allowing admins to concentrate on building better service offerings.
It is important to remember, though, that DCIM is simply a means to achieve the goal of broader agility in the data center – it can’t do it alone. With leading platforms now focusing on tighter integration with data center infrastructure and management tools, deployment has become much easier, but deriving true value from the software will take some creative thinking on the part of IT staff.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.