It’s hard to manage what you can’t see. Indeed, that is broadly the rationale behind data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools – to give data center managers visibility into the performance of key infrastructure components (physical and logical) so that those components can be managed.
Gartner defines DCIM as “tools [that] 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 and computer room air conditioners)”.
DCIM: Bridging the gap between IT and facilities
“Both vendors and customers are unanimous in their opinion about DCIM’s role to bridge the gap between IT and facilities. Says Sanchit VirGogia, Principal Analyst, IDC, ‘Organizations consume infrastructure via applications. As organizations are integrating applications for seamless experience for their customers, it is becoming critical to remove silos in the infrastructure. When zeroing in on any DCIM solution one should ensure that types and variety of infrastructure can be streamed from one common portal.’” (A single pane of glass.)
For its data center in Forest City, North Carolina, Facebook built an in-house DCIM platform to monitor the complex relationship between load and cooling interfaces, and integrated it with a heavily customized Siemens AG building management system. Keven McCammon, data center manager for the site, says that link (“constant communication”) between IT and facilities is a pre-requisite for the level of efficiency the data center achieves.
Indeed, that is what DCIM tools are really good for.
In particular, DCIM bridges the gap between IT needs and facility capacity. “Capacity management is the most pressing concern of most data center professionals. What happens when the data center is out of power, cooling and space? ‘The issue is really about useable capacity,’ says Gartner analyst Jay Pultz. ‘We get new equipment and say, ‘Here’s a place we can put this,’ but it’s about what’s the best place to put this new equipment.’”
It should come as no surprise then, that Gartner research has DCIM deployed in 60% of larger data centers (more than 3,000 square feet) in North America by 2017.
Best practices for finding and implementing DCIM software
The following is a list of best practices compiled from DCD Intelligence and Data Center Knowledge:
1. Ask “What do I want DCIM to do for me?” Prioritize needs
2. Do due diligence – ask for proof of concept and vendor credentials
3. Demand a partnership, not a quick sale
4. Ensure your solution will scale and evolve
5. Design a roadmap for implementation
6. Empower your workforce
7. Prepare for cultural change
8. Use DCIM to improve your business
When energy costs make up the vast majority of data center OPEX and the business won’t wait 24 months for new capacity, a connection between IT and facilities that enables visibility into and control of energy consumption and capacity – in other words, a DCIM – is essential.
Resources[Utility] DCIM Smart Evaluation Checklist
 Express Computer, “DCIM: Bridging the Gap,” Jan 2013.
 TechTarget, “Facebook IT ‘likes’ facilities, shares PUE status,” 25 Jul 2014.
 Data Center Knowledge, “Gartner: Capacity Concerns Will Make DCIM a $1 Billion Market,” 12 Dec 2013.