DCIM Software Today–Different Times, Different Solutions
Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools have been with us for the past 15 years at least. Initial implementations were often driven by a need to closely monitor physical infrastructures from a space, power, and cooling perspective.
As energy costs continued to rise, and equipment densities in data centers continue to increase, the solution was to optimize energy usage via DCIM software. The intent was to lower power usage effectiveness (PUE) from an average 2.5, reduce energy costs, and improve operations efficiency.
The good news is that it worked. Responding to a 2022 survey, IT and data center managers reported an average annual PUE ratio of 1.55 at their largest data center1.
The other side of the story is that two other factors drove this success: technology refresh and cloud migrations. When IT equipment was refreshed, we saw a dramatic improvement in PUE, simply because newer products used new chips or greater drive densities, giving much greater performance per device, and a much lower power (and, therefore, cooling) requirement. Cloud migrations also factored into this as enterprises began moving easy workloads to public cloud providers instead of continuing to grow data centers, and most new development became cloud focused. And rarely did a single cloud provider solve all problems, so multi-cloud strategies evolved. The result was that the CIO’s purview was now much more complex than it was a decade ago.
“So how does this affect DCIM software?” you may ask. The need for traditional on-premises monitoring is still important, but the requirements for CIOs, and the infrastructures they manage have changed dramatically. Cloud-first mindsets may have sounded grand but shutting down traditional data centers rarely happened – just the workload mix that remained in them changed. No longer was everything on-premises. What remained were often mission-critical work that could not migrate, or that due to latency, compliance, audit, or security concerns had to stay where it was.
And then edge raised its hand and said, “What about me?” Business leaders realized that moving workloads closer to the customer (or compute closer to the problem being solved), could reduce latency and improve that customer (or business units) experience. And thus, the CIO’s purview expanded yet again.
So, What’s Next for DCIM?
The common questions that next-generation DCIM tools are trying to answer today are – if my new infrastructure is everywhere – anywhere it needs to be to support my business, how can I keep track of it all? And better yet, how can I quickly add new assets and track what’s happening, wherever it happens to be? Oh, and I need to do that consistently within audit and compliance guidelines, and with solid, near real-time reporting tools.
It seems almost like a Catch 22 – I need DCIM software to help reduce complexity, but at the same time discover, implement, visualize, and manage complex environments.
At a minimum, I would need to observe the current state of all infrastructure elements– from IT facilities, networks, and endpoints to virtual, IoT, edge and cloud environments. Additionally, the ability to validate compliance with licensing and regulatory compliance requirements across environments, while providing audit reporting tools for insights and threat analysis.
Although it may appear to be a lofty set of needs, several components of this next-generation DCIM software are already available, and vendors are approaching this specialized market from various angles. However, there are several areas that vendors must improve to attain the level of functionality outlined here. These areas include implementing open APIs to allow for seamless integration between tools, adopting common formats for messaging, alerts, and KPIs to facilitate ingestion, establishing integrated dependency maps between different layers of the application stack, implementing dynamic inventory through automated discovery and inventory of all infrastructure (starting on-premises and eventually spanning domains), and providing visual mapping of workflows, network paths, and performance.
If you would like to learn more about the difference between next-generation and legacy DCIM softwares, download this free guide.
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