The vendors of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software continue to promote and propagate that it’s the way of the future.  One of the current issues with this data center solution segment is the DCIM definition.   It’s often difficult to justify the purchase of a solution, when the solution definition is very broad.  Let’s take a look at two different definitions of DCIM.

Gartner Defines DCIM

Data center infrastructure management tools monitor, measure, manage and/or control data center utilization and energy consumption of all IT-related equipment (such as servers, storage and network switches) and facility infrastructure components (such as power distribution units or PDUs and computer room air conditioners or CRACs).

The Wikipedia Definition

Data center infrastructure management includes the marriage of information technology and data center facility management disciplines.

DCIM is a category of solutions which were created to extend the traditional data center management function to include all of the physical assets and resources found in the facilities and IT domains. DCIM deployments, over time, will integrate IT and facility management disciplines to centralize monitoring, management and intelligent capacity planning of a data center’s critical systems. Since data center infrastructure management is a broadly used term which covers a wide range of data center management values, each deployment will include a subset of the full DCIM value needed and expected over time.

The Importance of Values

The definition I like the best is the one from Wikipedia. It actually highlights the fact that DCIM covers a broad range of data center management values.  In my personal experience of consulting with companies interested in DCIM solutions, I find the key word in both of the above definitions to be ”values.”  For example, ”What value will DCIM give me?”

In most cases, any company with as little as 15-to-20 racks of IT gear should be looking for some level of DCIM.  The objective is to add value to the organization by assuring that maximum data center efficiency and cost savings are found and applied.

If your IT department is of this size or larger and you are not looking into DCIM solutions, you should seriously consider colocation or the cloud.  Even if you do not plan to purchase a data center infrastructure management solution for some time, it could be a very good department exercise to consider one sooner rather than later.

The reason for this is that when you consider and evaluate DCIM solutions, it forces company departments – that rely on IT – to evaluate what they really find valuable and what they would really like to see improved as it relates to the IT collective realm.  Not only should this include both IT and facility components, it should also include networking and server administration, applications and more.

Where to Start

The process starts with the organization and having each department write a list of DCIM requirements believed to be the best fit for the area.  This creation of a “must have” and “nice to have” DCIM list is often rather enlightening. What’s more, it represents a large step forward, for overall improvement as a company, in the entire compute DCIM area.

Rather than wasting time looking at demos of a variety of DCIM software products and listening to multiple vendor sales pitches on their DCIM solution, the first thing to do is to sit down and build out a requirements list.  The building of this list will help sort out what DCIM software functions and features must be included and those that are not mandatory – but would still add value.  This will give you a foundation of DCIM requirements to refer back to. And it will help guide you as to what solutions could be the most viable.

Another important item to keep in mind, while building out your DCIM requirements list, is that the success of many DCIM software features is usually related to company policy that is already in place and being enforced.  If you need to institute processes built around your DCIM requirements – that force employees to stay within the DCIM guidelines – you are likely not a current candidate for any DCIM solutions.  The requirements and your company policies are the two key elements toward building out a successful DCIM initiative.

For more on DCIM, check out this BizTech Magazine post on Ghost Servers