DCIM: Bridging the Gap

As more and more data centers in India metamorphose into advanced, intelligent and efficient hubs for business apps, data center infrastructure management assumes great significance in bringing IT and facilities together

By Jasmine Desai

There is a transformation going on in the massive and often complex world of data centers from handling ever-growing amounts of structured and unstructured data to making the equipment more energy efficient. CIOs and IT managers are deeply engaged, and often challenged, in the task of making their data centers as lean, clean and mean as possible.

In this backdrop, the discipline of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is receiving increasing traction in the market. The transformation that data centers are going through requires DCIM solutions to adapt to the changing business and compute dynamics.

Gartner defines DCIM as comprising of tools that monitor, measure, manage and/or control data center use and energy consumption of all IT-related equipment (such as servers, storage and network switches) and facilities infrastructure components (such as power distribution units [PDUs] and computer room air conditioners [CRACs]).

However, there exists a wide gap between the requirements of an organization, understanding of the solution among stakeholders and offerings available in the DCIM space.

According to Sid Deshpande, Senior Analyst, Gartner Inc, “DCIM has been in the market for several years, and while some tools are mature, others are far from it. Likewise, the level of hype around DCIM has increased dramatically, with little consensus about exactly what the term means."

Choosing a DCIM solution

In spite of a plethora of options available, selecting an appropriate DCIM solution is a complex task. According to Sridhar Reddy, CEO and Founder of independent data center solutions provider CtrlS, “I have been trying to find a DCIM solution for a couple of years. The current DCIM solutions are slightly more than BMS [building management system] solutions. A traditional DCIM getting data from a traditional, age-old BMS system will not work and is not practical to implement for a third-party data center. An ideal DCIM solution should be able to give tangible benefits to the DC manager.For example, reduction in PUE (power usage effectiveness) by intelligently manipulating all power-consuming devices in the data center.”

DCIM solutions are still in an evolving phase. Says Ankesh Kumar, Director of Channel Products and Marketing, Emerson Network Power, “There was no interoperability in DCIM solutions earlier. There were just various modules and software that were disparate and could not talk to each other."

An important aspect of an advanced DCIM solution is how it brings IT and facilities management together. According to Vivek Vikram Singh, Principal – Business Development, Energy and Sustainability Solutions, CA Technologies, 的t is very important to get both IT and facilities groups together before even jotting down the requirement for a DCIM solution. One needs to look at holistic solutions and not treat IT and facilities management as two different silos.

As per a Forrester Research report, the DCIM supplier landscape is complex because DCIM has its roots in multiple technologies from a fragmented vendor landscape. Forrester sees three distinct clusters of vendors: data center facility and infrastructure vendors; IT management vendors; and systems hardware vendors. Therefore, I&O groups (IT and operations) must take a close look at existing solutions to understand how their requirements may evolve over time.

Both vendors and customers are unanimous in their opinion about DCIM’s role to bridge the gap between IT and facilities. Says Sanchit Vir Gogia, 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.”

Organizations also need to make sure that the DCIM tool is able to accommodate all types of contractual agreements and be able to manage licenses at the embedded level. It needs to operate across equipment and has to be hardware and application agnostic.

"There is a lot of interest amongst enterprises to obtain a DCIM solution. There is a corresponding growth of vendors that claim to have a holistic DCIM solution, though few of them provide a broad range of DCIM capabilities. Customers are seeking broader capabilities,says Rajendra Dhawale, Senior Director (Technical Sales), CA Technologies.

Broader solutions have to encompass reporting, monitoring and analysis of systems, power and cooling, and environmental parameters. There has to be capacity and inventory management as well. Dhawale suggests that vendors should also have the right experience, scale, resources, and expertise to implement it.

Having a DCIM solution does not necessarily mean that it is easy to operate and manage, however. Cautions a Forrester report, titled Market Overview: Data Center Infrastructure Management Solutions: As DCIM solutions advance beyond basic functionality, I&O professionals will have to deal with complex and intertwined tasks. By accepting the complexity of the new solutions, they can deliver more robust, efficient, and cost-effective data centers to the business."

DCIM trends

A Gartner report by Jay E. Pultz estimates that more than half of data center managers polled [for the study] will likely be using DCIM tools in 2013. At present, more than 60 providers claim participation in some aspect of the DCIM space. Some are large or mainstream providers, such as HP, Emerson, Schneider Electric, iTRACS, nlyte Software and Rackwise. Others are smaller or more specialized providers, such as Vigilent, Trend Point Systems, RF Code or Server Technology, among others.

But according to another poll of this same audience, large, well-established providers don’t necessarily have the edge. The door is wide open for small or emerging DCIM providers as long as they can demonstrate that their solution is highly innovative,the report quotes.

With all the complexities it might or might not pose, the DCIM market is undoubtedly on the verge of a boom. Gartner Inc. has predicted the DCIM market in India to reach Rs500 crore by 2014. Currently, it is around Rs100-150 crore.

Says Dhawale, “Everyone in the data center business understands that unless you look at IT and facilities together, you cannot succeed in the long run. This is putting more pressure on the data center service level agreement [to be more comprehensive]."

A piece of advice for CIOs from Gogia of IDC: The mid-market segment in India will offer the maximum growth. They require lot of economies of scale and the right cost. An infrastructure tool might not give you the ultimate control: it still might lie with the third-party hosting company. But as a CIO, you need higher visibility on status and health of the infrastructure."

The Indian data center market is on the cusp of growth, with lots of investment in data center build-outs and transformation projects. Says Singh of CA Technologies, data center going down in early 90s would not have caused much of a business loss. But now, it clearly affects the bottomline." Needless to say, the right kind of DCIM solutions can make a huge difference in this context.


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