Many enterprise-level organizations have comprehensive, integrated software suites that oversee and manage key aspects of their business, such as sales, finance, manufacturing, and shipping. The larger the organization, the more critical it is to have such overarching visibility and control over core concerns. The same logic calls for comprehensive, integrated control over the enterprise’s data center, which has typically become an organization’s largest and most valuable asset.
Today, IT management is looking for its own purpose-built enterprise-class business management suite for the entire data center. Managers are looking for something that ties together everything from the physical component layer, the virtual and logical layers, and up through the actual delivering of information and control to IT personnel. The desire is to move from a tactical approach aimed at keeping bad things from happening to a strategic implementation of well-organized management technology. The aim is to capture years of data center asset management expertise and present it as sets of business management processes and specific supporting tools. The result is effective, global data center management that is definable, accountable, defendable, supportable, and consistent.
In simple terms, data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is the strategic business management solution for the data center. DCIM is the structured approach to managing change, purpose-built for the data center. That change consists of the facility itself, as well as all of the IT components housed within those facilities.
Perhaps more than anything else, DCIM’s value is in its capability as a workflow manager for the business of IT at the physical infrastructure level and in tying these physical structures to the applications that live on top of that physical infrastructure.
In the course of its evolution, DCIM has become a data center management extension to a number of other systems, including asset and service management, financial general ledgers, and other core business systems. A well-deployed DCIM solution quantifies the costs associated with moving, adding, or changing equipment on the data center floor. It understands the cost and complexity of operation of those assets, and clearly identifies the value that each asset provides over its lifespan. The views provided by DCIM serve to bring together the IT and the facilities world.
This image shows how DCIM stands between IT and facilities and joins them together. The physical assets of the facility, such as floor space, electrical power, environmental control, and cooling are monitored and controlled by DCIM processes, which then interface with the virtual infrastructure overseen by the IT function. The DCIM suite provides an overview of system health and functioning, and also enables drilling down to any desired level of detail for fine-grained control of operations.
As a category, DCIM can be pretty broadly defined. In addition to the comprehensive software suites described previously, anyone who sells any component of the system can claim to be a DCIM vendor, including those that provide network-addressable power strips or environmental sensors. A well-conceived DCIM implementation will generally include several such vendor solutions, all working together. For example, a core DCIM management suite might be coupled with intelligent power appliances as well as several different environment sensor solutions.
Of all the advantages that DCIM provides, perhaps the most important is that it breaks down the walls of the silos that IT and facilities have been living in and enables those groups to work together more closely to satisfy the needs of the business. The overall goals of IT infrastructure management software are to reduce the cost of doing the computing work that the data center is charged with doing and increase the responsiveness to changing business needs.
Computing cost has many components. Some are IT-specific, some are facilities-specific, and some relate to the interface between the two. Prior to the implementation of a DCIM system, some of those interface opportunity costs can’t be realized because they don’t leverage the broader view. The DCIM platform exposes these costs and allows scrutiny, which is the first step toward reducing or eliminating them.