What is DCIM?

DCIM stands for Data Centre Infrastructure Management and describes a software-based platform that enables visibility and control over all aspects of datacentre infrastructure from fundamental physical facilities such as power and cooling to IT equipment (e.g. servers, switches, storage arrays etc.).

DCIM has been a mainstay of advanced datacentres for nearly 10 years and become increasingly mainstream in response to changing market drivers and other factors. But what is DCIM and why is it relevant? What benefits does it bring and how?

What are the benefits of DCIM?

DCIM provides managers with the intelligent, automated means of operating their unique datacentre environment for greatest advantage. It is an essential part of the datacentre operator’s toolkit. Top-line benefits include:

  • Increased datacentre availability as risks to uptime are anticipated and alerted.
  • Increased datacentre energy efficiency, translating directly into reduced running costs and environmental impact.
  • A centralised point of control for managing datacentre assets and undertaking necessary equipment changes, alleviating admin wastage and freeing up time for data centre professionals to spend on more strategic activities.
  • Informing optimum business decision making through up-to-date, visual information about the historic and present status of the datacentre environment and its projected demands.

Business Drivers for DCIM

Organisations adopt DCIM for a range of reasons, either as part of a major datacentre build or expansion project or in response to other business drivers. DCIM’s ability to deliver tangible improvements in availability, operating efficiency and management accountability are crucial to determining a compelling business case for DCIM investment.

Change events include:

Cost reduction exercises

A common motivating factor for DCIM is a wider cost reduction effort targeting the IT and/or facilities departments of an organisation. Electricity costs represent a conspicuously significant budget item for datacentre users, so it is not unusual for CFOs and FDs to target marginal efficiency improvements that could result in tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds over a typical investment period. 

Best practice is to undertake a regular PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) assessment to benchmark and identify future improvement paths.

Organisations are also rightly concerned that energy costs are prone to increase over the long term. This could expose the balance sheet to a disproportionate extent if not properly controlled and optimised through a DCIM solution, sooner rather than later.

Strategic risk assessments

A datacentre represents mission-critical infrastructure that, if compromised, could seriously damage its organisation. As organisations become more attuned to the potential risks and consequences – perhaps as a result of recent business growth – DCIM becomes an attractive way of understanding and mitigating them.

DCIM’s value in managing risk centres around its ability to monitor key environmental metrics such as temperature and moisture, as well as managing the fire suppression and physical door entry systems. Organisations without DCIM find it more challenging to manage these risks efficiently and effectively.  

Corporate social responsibility objectives

Concerns about climate change and the environmental impact of unnecessary energy consumption have driven organisations to instill corporate social responsibility (CSR) within their business missions. These cross-cutting initiatives empower business leaders to, amongst other things, remove pollutants and reduce carbon emissions.

DCIM is critical to achieving this, both at the outset (through an initial ‘wave’ of efficiencies) and for the long-term life of the datacentre, enabling managers to test and measure increasingly innovative approaches to extract marginal gains.

Digital transformation

As more organisations pursue digital agendas, they evolve their underlying datacentre environments to become more densely architected, virtualised and software driven. The result is a substantially more dynamic, ‘organic’ datacentre environment that is capable of achieving business goals. However, managing it all and planning for additional capacity can be a significant challenge, which is where DCIM comes in.

Enhanced governance and compliance coverage

All organisations, particularly those in highly regulated sectors that attract specific compliance requirements around data management, operate under some form of governance structure.  The better the governance, the better the organisation’s ability to not only manage its resources and processes effectively, but also to be seen to manage them effectively. 

A lack of datacentre governance can mean severe financial and legal non-compliance penalties, as well as a lost opportunity to optimise business and infrastructure management.

The impact of DCIM is invariably an improvement in visibility; illuminating those critical datacentre assets and processes that were formerly in complete darkness.

Increased business performance and agility

For organisations that wish to harness the potential of their datacentres, the holy grail is a combination of uptime and agility. Reducing unplanned downtime to zero has a direct benefit to the business bottom line, inspiring customer loyalty and enabling growth. The maximisation of business agility – being able to respond immediately and appropriately to new opportunities and threats – is central to achieving competitive advantage. DCIM has a massive part to play in achieving these goals.

Why Demand for DCIM is So High

DCIM is a very hot area at the moment because so many factors are converging to create a ‘perfect storm’ for its adoption:

IT departments are becoming ‘service providers’

The advent of cloud computing and new consumption models for IT has not only changed the face of datacentres, but also the mindset for those who manage them. 

IT departments are increasingly positioned as ‘service providers to the business’ rather than a cost centre that eats money. 

This change creates the imperative to generate value. DCIM is a great tool for identifying opportunities for increased business value, and for reflecting this to business stakeholders who don’t have an advanced knowledge of datacentre environments.

The growth in big data analytics

Business intelligence (BI) and management information (MI) are tried and trusted concepts that rely upon accurate, timely information to inform the right actionable business decisions. The trend toward ‘big data’ has underlined the importance of BI/MI and this is harnessed by DCIM platforms that are capable of interpreting very large quantities of real-time and historic data.

Data visualisation and mobility

It’s fair to say there has been a bit of a breakthrough in how data is represented visually, enabling managers to act upon large, very complex datasets without reading through reams of dry reports formed of words and numbers on a page. What’s more, DCIM platforms are bringing this to your mobile device in a myriad of engaging and interactive ways, so that you can just press an icon on your tablet to perform an action from wherever you are.

Reduced barriers to access

Whereas DCIM once had a reputation for being the sole preserve of mega-corporations with large datacentre assets, today’s reality is for a far larger addressable market. Even small organisations with comparatively modest comms room deployments can find compelling ROI from a DCIM investment suited to their unique needs.

IT and facilities are one

DCIM’s ability to manage a datacentre’s physical infrastructure and IT infrastructure through a single system mirrors the sea-change organisations have experienced in who manages these assets internally. In the past, IT and facilities/estates professionals would frequently clash over who was in charge of what in the datacentre environment, leading to duplication of effort or gaps in management oversight. DCIM simplifies management processes so those risks and confrontations are averted.

Cost pressures

With the exponential growth in data impacting the scale requirements of datacentres, IT departments are under increasing pressure to accommodate more for less or same budget as before. This compounds the pressure to find savings from the operational budget, and to collate authoritative, complete evidence to demonstrate that available efficiencies are being maximised.

Software defined datacentres

The rapid transformation of the datacentre from a static repository of interconnected IT components to a dynamic, software-defined hybrid cloud environment is arguably the biggest driver for DCIM adoption today. DCIM also supports the increased automation of datacentre-related functions and allows planners to test out any number of what-if scenarios before implementing further change.

Look out for Part 2 of our Guide to DCIM, where we will be exploring the operations, applications and use cases for this valuable datacentre technology.