DCIM Entering the IT Mainstream

Arthur Cole

Enterprise workloads may be shifting to the cloud, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t bound by physical infrastructure. And as data management techniques gain in sophistication, so too do the tools needed to manage the data facilities and infrastructure that house virtual and software-defined environments.

In fact, the market for Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is growing at a furious clip, with research firm MarketsandMarkets predicting nearly 50 percent annual growth over the next four years at least. The company says the industry will top $3 billion by 2017, compared to the paltry $300 million or so today. As enterprises seek to not only trim their energy and hardware costs but find more sustainable ways of building and managing IT infrastructure, solutions that provide broader, more holistic views of the data center and the relationships between its various components will become highly prized.

Not surprisingly, then, new DCIM solutions are continually hitting the channel despite the head start that top power and management firms like Emerson Electric, IBM and CA Technologies have taken. One of the newest entrants is Digital Realty Trust, which recently launched a DCIM software suite that seeks to leverage the company’s own experiences as a data center operator. The EnVision platform provides visibility into data infrastructure from the rack level to globally distributed architectures, delivering real-time historical and predictive analysis into data operations. It also features a specialized management tool optimized for identifying stranded data and bringing it back to functional status.

Meanwhile, stalwarts like CA are turning toward innovative new approaches to keep tabs on hardware deployments. The company recently tapped RF Code to collect data on deployed devices, providing a broad view on data center assets and the conditions they operate under. Not only does this provide an easier way to track and replace faulty equipment, but it allows IT managers to more accurately direct airflow, humidity and other environmental factors where they are needed most.

One of the more crucial developments in DCIM has been the addition of graphic representations of real-world data environments, giving management a clear sense of what is and is not working within their facilities.  As iTRACS Corp.’s Gary Bunyan points out, a 3D model provides the most concise view of the data center and allows for a fully immersive, holistic view of the physical world – you can literally walk through a server room or storage farm and see where power and heat is concentrated and where data loads may be shifted to effect a more efficient operation. After all, a picture is worth a thousand spreadsheets.

Distributed data environments have done a lot to take the pressure off of the enterprise’s centralized facilities. But as these disparate resources become more cloud-like, they are bound to result in more of the massive, web-facing facilities that currently power leading providers like Google and Amazon. When it comes to infrastructure on that scale, even a minor increase in efficiency can contribute a great deal to the bottom line.

But even for enterprises that prefer to maintain their own data facilities for a while longer, there is no reason to avoid DCIM. Most organizations already employ varying levels of facility and infrastructure management software, but these systems generally provide isolated views of their own environments.

DCIM pulls all that together, providing new insight in how to manage data operations from the ground up, resulting in less energy consumption and higher data productivity.

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