By Matthew Valleskey
It’s no surprise that Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) has become increasingly important for facility management professionals, or that demand for DCIM is on the rise. But what exactly is DCIM and why are facility managers suddenly talking about the benefits it brings to their operation?
Let’s start with the basics. DCIM is usually defined as the convergence of IT and building facilities functions within an organization. Because DCIM offers the ability to oversee data center infrastructure and equipment integration, its goal is to provide facility managers with a holistic view of a data center’s performance so that energy, equipment, and floor space are used as efficiently as possible.
DCIM started out as a component of building information modeling (BIM) software, which is commonly used by facilities managers to create building digital schematic diagrams. DCIM tools bring the same capabilities to data centers, allowing managers to monitor, measure, manage, and control data center use and energy consumption of all IT related equipment (such as servers, storage and network switches), as well as facility infrastructure components (such as power distribution units and computer room air conditioners) in real time.
DCIM tools can help facility managers to locate and identify relationships between a building and its IT systems. Energy-monitoring sensors and supporting hardware can be installed along all points of the power infrastructure so that DCIM software can accurately aggregate and analyze power usage effectiveness and cooling system energy efficiency. Some organizations will even couple DCIM with computational fluid dynamic analysis to optimize air flow and systems placement to further reduce cooling expenses.
For facility managers who are now expected to oversee not just building operations and management but also the building’s IT infrastructure, perhaps the greatest benefit DCIM offers is resource management. DCIM offers a new way to assess what resources are used in the data center and the levels of utilization reached, with the end result being better facility capacity planning and evaluation. And because it provides continuous modeling, DCIM allows the facility manager to observe and quantify the engineering cause and effect of proposed IT or infrastructure changes before any money has been spent.
As the nerve center of building and facility management, DCIM affords numerous cost and energy savings. Perhaps most important among those benefits are the following:
DCIM for power usage monitoring
DCIM can save vast amounts of energy by identifying and monitoring large areas of power consumption. The estimated amount of power coming into a facility over its use in IT infrastructure is a massive 1.7. Nearly two times as much power is being consumed verses used.
DCIM monitoring software could contribute to the reduction of energy usage by 5%, or even 10%. In addition, power use required by cooling accounts for nearly 37% of electricity used by data centers. DCIM could help to identify these inefficiencies resulting in a decrease in energy consumption and an increase in cost savings.
Central inventory management and integration
Managing multiple assets in a data center can cost hundreds or even thousands of labor hours. An integrated DCIM solution can help mitigate this loss through an automated asset discovery engine. This discovery engine would crawl the asset management inventory, searching for all devices and services involved. It could then feed this information into a central repository, such as a configuration management database. Data center managers would save time by easily viewing and understanding the relationships between the services, systems and devices.
Broader and deeper data analysis
DCIM saves time and costs through its holistic approach to data analysis. Operators can now see connections between the data and changes in the external environment that may not have been previously apparent. It is now possible through predictive analysis to determine what could happen if various aspects of the data center were altered in order to determine what costs could be saved and what redundancies could be eliminated.
An integrated DCIM approach can run the facility’s data operations automatically, reducing the costs of human intervention, management, and oversight. It should be able to handle any issues that arise programmatically through workflow automations. This, in turn, would enable building management to focus on strategic issues and matters of end-user operations that matter more to the enterprise than day-to-day, replicable tasks.
Flexibility of vendor
The notion of a data center is becoming more fluid. Various vendors offer both physical and cloud based solutions for data operations. In fact, some of the most mission-critical operations of a data center may be run in both the cloud and non-contiguous locations. Utilizing multiple vendors and integrating systems, tools, protocols, and standards, DCIM can save costs that a single vendor lock-in might prohibit.
Even if you’re not prepared to adopt a DCIM strategy now, you may want to reduce manpower hours or capital expenditures down the road. Facilities can always take small steps now to be baseline prepared for a DCIM transition in the future.
Above all, a DCIM environment can and should provide a synergistic, holistic savings approach to operations management. There’s no one-size-fits-all data solution. Similarly, an out-of-the-box DCIM package may not be right for a facility. But with a careful analysis, you should be able to determine if a customized DCIM environment and the benefits in time and energy savings it offers is right for individual facility needs.
Valleskey is the vice president of sales and marketing at American Technology Services, a Fairfax, VA-based firm founded on providing comprehensive IT services to small and mid-sized organizations.