Creating Order from Chaos with DCIM

Tools allow an overall view of data center power, heating, cooling and system utilization.

Eric Hayden, infrastructure services manager for the city of Tampa, must ensure that the servers, power and cooling remain running and properly distributed in the Florida city’s three data centers. To maintain remote control over his infrastructure, Hayden has jury-rigged a system of software consoles and power sensors to monitor the data centers to the greatest extent possible.

“With respect to power usage, we have pretty much everything tracked on a series of consoles — our intelligent power distribution units and Symmetra power protection from APC, as well as some other systems,” Hayden says. “Currently, they are separate systems that were designed to be managed independently, but we are doing our best to manage them centrally.”

What Hayden has done in a one-off fashion is something that hardware manufacturers have begun offering as centrally managed solutions. These solutions, commonly called data center infrastructure management (DCIM), bundle planning, management and optimization software and services for power systems, air conditioning, uninterrupted power supplies and generators to create an overall view of the data center.

Plentiful Product Choices

This emerging field already has plenty of contenders, including APC, Emerson Network Power, Raritan and Schneider Electric. The 451 Group, a market research firm, expects the adoption of DCIM solutions to grow five fold between 2011 and 2015. What’s driving this growth is simple data center complexity, says Andy Lawrence, research director for data center technologies at The 451 Group.

“It’s reached a point in many large data centers where you can’t manage this amount of complexity and dependencies without some good software,” Lawrence says. “It’s about getting control over the disorder.”

The interesting anomaly, Lawrence says, is that until fairly recently, comprehensive DCIM tools simply weren’t available. The dearth of suitable products prompted many IT managers to do the best that they could with spreadsheets, homegrown tools and point solutions.

The percentage of data center managers interested in deploying a DCIM solution

SOURCE: "Decrease Costs and Gain a Competitive Advantage by Improving Data Center Infrastructure Management" (Raritan, 2011)

What DCIM Does

Today, DCIM solutions have matured significantly. Dozens of solutions could be loosely categorized as DCIM, with a handful considered full DCIM suites. These solutions have two basic functions. The first is to provide real-time monitoring, reporting and aggregating of power meters, temperature sensors, server utilization and other data center metrics, and then provide that information in management view. With that information, data center managers can create more accurate forecasts, real-time analysis and trending.

The second function is to track all data center assets. With this information, data center managers have a real-time snapshot of where everything is located and can drill down to see what type of server each is, how much power each draws, its weight, the heat it emits, and what temperatures it can tolerate.

The city of Tampa’s Hayden says DCIM is a definite goal, and he hopes to at least start evaluating solutions within the next year. “With DCIM, we would be able to get better information on power consumption and the usage of each individual outlet, which would help us determine cost per use and cost per time, as well as whether there is extra capacity that we could redistribute,” he says. He adds that the IT department isn’t monitoring cooling as efficiently as it could be, and that DCIM would provide Tampa with new AC monitoring capabilities.

Mar 02 2012