DCIM leading the Evolution from Data Center to Hybrid Cloud
Published on March 24, 2020,
The Birth of DCIM
In the land of punch cards
Long, long, long, ago in a data center far far away (say 10 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 a 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 automated the spreadsheets and CAD tools in an attempt to simplify the myriad of control documents that data center managers were using. But very few offered complete solutions that comprehensively provide power and asset management.
It is uncertain whether the DCIM vendors lost interest or became complacent with their offerings. 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, there were only three primary players left, and thus Gartner felt there was not a need for a Magic Quadrant. While there are a couple of small vendors who 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
Now, this contraction of DCIM vendors doesn’t mean DCIM solutions are any less relevant today than they were 10 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 to be one of the cornerstone technologies to address the need for what they are calling Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management (HDIM).
All things old are new again
DCIM solutions were conceived and designed at a different time. Problems that they were looking to solve in the traditional enterprise data center have taken on new levels of complexity.
Since the 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 now includes colocation facilities, edge computing hubs, and public clouds. As well as numerous geographical locations and 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, 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 lead 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 not only improves data center operations but the entire organization benefits. These DCIM vendors research before evaluating DCIM solutions to understand the needs of concordant teams. What tools are they using, 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 that a BMS system or ITSM solution requires. Instead, they need to play together in the sandbox.
Your DCIM solution needs to 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, and auditing, seamless connection into ticketing and BMS systems, as well as 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 workorders were done consistently and per IT guidelines.
Mature DCIM solutions today 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 updates the central database and other ITSM and BMS systems.
What is in 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 drive a bilateral exchange of information across multiple IT, facility, and finance systems. In the hybrid cloud, DCIM continues its work not only as a monitor and manager of the computing infrastructure, but it 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 is everything 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 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 that were 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 into 3rd parties and codeless scripting tools
- Protocol agnosticism ensures the most 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:
- Inventory assets and workloads
- Discover workload dependencies
- Analyze workload demand cycles
- Understand cost per workload
- Connect to vendors and systems with an open platform, APIs, and protocols
- Monitor end to end (hybrid) compute infrastructure for cost & performance