Data center infrastructure management

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  • Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is a category of solutions which were originally 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 were supposed to integrate information technology (IT) and facility management disciplines to centralize monitoring, management and intelligent capacity planning of a data center’s critical systems. Since DCIM 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.
  • Full DCIM deployments may involve specialized software, hardware and sensors, but most do not.With more than 75 vendors in 2014 self-identifying their offerings to be part of the DCIM market segment, the rapid evolution of the DCIM category helped lead to the creation of several associated data center performance management and measurement metrics, including industry standard metrics like PUE, CUE and DCeP – Data Center Energy Productivity as well as vendor-driven metrics such as PAR4 – Server Power Usage and DCPM – Data Center Predictive Modeling with the intention of providing increasingly cost-effective planning and operations support for certain aspects of the data center and its contained devices.
  • Since its identification as a missing component for optimized data center management, the broad DCIM category has been flooded with a wide range of point-solutions and hardware-vendor offerings intended to address this void. The analyst firm Gartner Research has started using a term to try and focus on DCIM vendors with a more comprehensive set of capabilities. DCIM Suite vendors number less than two dozen in 2014, and consist of software offering which are wide-ranging and integrated in nature. The existing suites touch upon both IT and Facilities and depending upon the vendor’s heritage, may have a bias towards either 1) IT asset lifecycle management or facilities monitoring and access. It is likely that for an extended period of time, the DCIM Suites that exist will continue to have their core strength in one discipline or the other, but not equally addressing both. Important to note is that there are dozens of other vendors whose technologies directly support or enhance the DCIM suites. In general, these specialists’ offerings can also be used as viable stand-lone solution to a specific set of data center management needs. In the fourth quarter of 2014, Gartner[3] released their Magic Quadrant and Critical Capabilities[5] reports which are the first tangible approach to a quantitative comparison of the values each vendor has to offer. The Magic Quadrant focused on 17 vendors, while the Critical Capabilities report examined just 7 that they considered broad enough compare.
  • The large framework providers are re-tooling their own wares and creating DCIM alliances and partnerships with various other DCIM vendors to complete their own management picture. The inefficiencies seen previously by having limited visibility and control at the physical layer of the data center is simply too costly for end-users and vendors alike in the energy-conscious world we live in. These multibillion-dollar large framework providers include Hewlett-Packard, BMC, CA and IBM/Tivoli and have promised DCIM will be part of their overall management structure. Today, each is defining their approach in doing so through organic and partnership efforts.
  • While the physical layer of the data center has historically been viewed as a hardware exercise, there are a number of DCIM Suite and DCIM Specialist software vendors who offer varied DCIM capabilities including one or more of the following; Capacity Planning, 3D visualization, Real-Time Monitoring, Cable/Connectivity management, Environmental/Energy sensors, business analytics (including financial modeling), Process/Change Management and integration well with various types of external management systems and data sources.
  • In 2011 some predicted data center management domains would converge across the logical and physical layers. This type of converged management environment will allow enterprises to use fewer resources, eliminate stranded capacity, and manage the coordinated operations of these otherwise independent components.

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