The Birth of DCIM: The Evolution from Data Center to Hybrid Cloud

The Birth of DCIM

In the land of punch cards

Long, long, long ago, in a data center far, far away (say twelve years ago), Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) was touted as the saving grace of the data center.  Companies were coming out of the woodwork peddling DCIM software of one kind or another.

Some companies like the power and cabling management stalwarts tweaked and touted their existing tools as “complete” data center management solutions. Others attempted to automate spreadsheets and CAD tools to simplify the various control documents that data center managers were using. But very few offered complete solutions that comprehensively provide power and asset management.

The Doldrums

Whether the DCIM vendors lost interest or became complacent with their offerings is uncertain.  Many vendors did not keep up with the evolving computing infrastructure and became irrelevant. Gartner’s DCIM Magic Quadrant in 2014 touted 17 DCIM vendors of mention.  Just three years later, only three primary players were left, and thus Gartner felt there was no need for a Magic Quadrant. While a couple of small vendors focus on smaller, less demanding data center environments, their offerings fall short of rich features and scalability.

The Evolution of DCIM to Meet Modern Demands

But Wait!

This contraction of DCIM vendors doesn’t mean DCIM solutions are any less relevant today than they were twelve years ago.  It does indicate that the solutions require the vendors to continuously evolve their offerings to meet the ever-changing needs of the hybrid digital infrastructure, sometimes referred to as the Hybrid Cloud.  Even Gartner has rethought DCIM’s importance and recognizes it as one of the cornerstone technologies to address the need for what they call Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management (HDIM).

All things old are new again

DCIM solutions were conceived and designed at different times.  They were looking to solve problems in the traditional enterprise data center and have taken on new levels of complexity.

Since its inception, the infrastructure has evolved, including virtualization, hybrid compute infrastructures, higher server and storage densities, increased power and cooling demands, IoT devices, etc.  The environment includes colocation facilities, edge computing hubs, public clouds, numerous geographical locations, disparate teams, and business processes.

What’s Holding Companies Back from Adopting DCIM?

Some of the very reasons DCIM has been feared are its main attributes for managing the hybrid cloud:

How do you quantify the return on investment? – DCIM is typically installed to address one or two initial needs, power management, capacity planning, and workflow automation, but is quickly recognized for its many other attributes.  The quantifiable ROI indicators are when you see a 7% - 10% savings in annual operating costs or free up 20% of floor space in an inefficiently managed facility. What is harder to quantify are the staff hours saved through automation, the coordinated workflow across organizations that eliminate redundant activities, or the accurate tracking of assets for compliance audits.

How do you get DCIM buy-in across organizational silos (IT and facilities)? – DCIM historically was strictly the realm of the data center management team.  Nascent and immature tools focused strictly on the core concerns of their daily users.  This led to the continued siloed effect isolating facilities, IT operations, and other peripheral (but dependent) groups responsible for the maintenance of the data center.

Advanced DCIM vendors realized that communication across organizations improves data center operations and benefits the entire organization.  These DCIM vendors research before evaluating DCIM solutions to understand the needs of concordant teams. What tools are they using, and what data is critical for them to do the job you need them to do?  By gathering these requirements, you can then begin the evaluation of DCIM solutions that address the big picture. This cross buy-in becomes critical as you move into a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

Does DCIM replace ITSM and BMS tools? – Some vendors developed their DCIM solution from their equipment and facilities monitoring tools, and early ITSM vendors tried to expand their CMDB tools to solve data center management.  While some of these DCIM approaches are still around, they are not comprehensive enough to deal with all the information required by a BMS system or ITSM solution; instead, they need to play together in the sandbox.

Your DCIM solution must provide out-of-the-box connectors for the most critical management systems and simple APIs to connect and deliver scripts to secondary applications.  The geographic separation and physical disparity in remote/cloud infrastructures require centralized management, automated workflows, auditing, seamless connection into ticketing and BMS systems, and other systems like finance and security.  DCIM extends its ability to deliver what it does in the data center across the entire hybrid cloud. This functionality provides centralized management, a single source of truth for BMS, ITSM, and brokering information across other management systems.

Can DCIM improve a dysfunctional or nascent business process? – DCIM was historically adopted to monitor power and cooling or to eliminate nonautomated tracking and logging tools such as a spreadsheet or Visio).  As data center managers soon learned, DCIM tools forced a set of rules that improved consistency and efficiency. Automated workflow engines ensured that work orders were done consistently and per IT guidelines.

Modern DCIM solutions can be deployed globally across the entire hybrid cloud while remaining centrally managed.  This global deployment ensures constant distribution and adherence to IT standards regardless of the location or team performing any action.  Additionally, solutions that provide Automated DCIM continually monitor the network for changes (adds, moves, deletes) and update the central database and other ITSM and BMS systems.

What is on the Hybrid Cloud’s Wish List for DCIM?

While conceived more than a decade ago, modern DCIM solutions set the cornerstone for Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management.  DCIM was never intended to operate in a vacuum but to drive a bilateral exchange of information across multiple IT, facility, and finance systems.  In the hybrid cloud, DCIM continues its work as a monitor and manager of the computing infrastructure and maintains data exchange with multiple tools, including cloud management platforms, ICT tools, and more.

DCIM interrogates the networked infrastructure, then aggregates and contextualizes it. It then brokers data between systems and delivers impact analysis and cost management across affected workloads.  DCIM delivers the following attributes to Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management:

  • Availability: The most basic information, such as whether everything is up and running and if operating in the way it was intended.
  • Energy Efficiency: From monitoring data centers to edge computing sites and monitoring colocation conditions to ensure SLAs are met.
  • Workflow Efficiency: Tracking moves, adds, and changes across multiple organizations, sites, and maintaining IT operating standards with a full audit trail.
  • Asset Management: Automated identification and management of infrastructure assets and the IT systems dependent on those assets.
  • Capacity Planning: Determining and forecasting power and space growth needs for the physical infrastructure and evaluating cloud and colocation migration requirements.
  • Workload Optimization: Making decisions about workload placement based on performance needs and cost efficiencies.
  • Policy Management: Ensures Security, Compliance, and IT operation policies are adhered to consistently and tracked through the workflow audit manager.
  • Dependency Mapping: Mapping of workloads to infrastructure, power, and networks to understand the cause and effect of planned and unplanned outages
  • Audit and Compliance: Keeps asset databases up to date with any changes that occur, and the automated workflow ensures every step is executed and traceable.
  • Machine Learning and advanced analytics: Monitors for anomalies across a vastly complex environment to provide predictive answers for availability and optimization.
  • Open APIs: Open communication with other management systems and delivers consistent scripting to ensure policies are continuously adhered to by subsystems.

The Cornerstone of HDIM

Garter identified 15 vendors seriously enabling the Hybrid Digital Infrastructure movement for the Hybrid Cloud.  Of all the technologies, DCIM was recognized as the cornerstone in the equation, and the only DCIM vendor recognized was Nlyte Software.

Long recognized as the leader in data center management, Nlyte has continued to evolve its platform to change with the technology growth across the compute infrastructure. Nlyte, in addition to the core Automated DCIM functionality, brings:

  •  Advanced discovery and inventory for asset management
  •  Network mapping to understand workload dependencies to infrastructure, power, and network
  •  Machine Learning and AI for predictive planning and workload optimization
  •  Hyper-scale management with low-latency performance
  •  The most open and connectable platform to 3rd parties and codeless scripting tools
  •  Protocol agnosticism ensures the complete collection and management of assets
  •  Centralized management to include data centers, colocation facilities, edge, and cloud

Nlyte gives you the ability to assess and understand your entire compute infrastructure, make decisions on how best to manage performance and efficiency, then monitor performance and make knowledgeable decisions on ongoing configuration changes for workload optimization.  Nlyte helps you prepare and manage the Hybrid Cloud:

  1. Inventory assets and workloads
  2. Discover workload dependencies
  3. Analyze workload demand cycles
  4. Understand cost per workload
  5. Connect to vendors and systems with an open platform, APIs, and protocols
  6. Monitor end-to-end (hybrid) compute infrastructure for cost & performance

Learn more about how to deliver the optimal balance between price and performance with Hybrid Cloud Computing Solutions | Nlyte.

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