In response to the rising costs of energy, the world of IT and more specifically their data centers (which are the single largest consumer of energy within most Enterprises) have come under pressure to transform themselves into a both a highly efficient operation as well as an operation that manages all aspects of what they do with the same level of precision, accuracy and predictability as all other key businesses units within an organization. This rising cost of power has become the primary catalyst for this change within IT and the data center, and exciting new solutions are arriving on the scene which are positioned to positively affect the cost structures associated with operating and managing data centers. The days of “service-level management at any cost” are long gone as the senior management layer within the IT organization is being transformed from a roster of pure technologists, to balanced business managers who understand in great detail what it takes to deliver a given set of IT services, including all of the costing structures to do so. In today’s energy-aware economy, IT is being asked to provide the required levels and types of service at a specified cost.
The first innovation to managing IT like a business unit came in the form of The Green Grid’s data center metric commonly referred to as “PUE” - Power Usage Effectiveness (total facility power divided by IT equipment power). The original version of the PUE metric was released in the 2008 timeframe as a way to quantify the efficiency in running data centers, effectively allowing the comparison between the energy required to do work and the overhead required to keep it running. The PUE metric was extremely well received by the data center community and provided the first general purpose means to benchmark overall data center efficiency relative to other data centers throughout the industry. PUE was a tremendous first step into looking at IT as a business with quantifiable physical costs structures and most of the Fortune 1000 began openly publicizing their accomplishments towards data center efficiency with continuously decreasing PUE values. PUE became the new ‘Medal of Valor’ for the IT industry and internally became a catalyst to drive the traditional IT and Facilities organizations to work together.
The early success of PUE fueled a growing interest by the traditional IT organization for tools to more actively manage the data center from a business standpoint. While PUE was considered to be a macro facilities-centric approach to business management of the data center, an innovative new concept referred to as “DCIM” – Data Center Infrastructure Management - was born to include traditional IT assets into these efficiency goals. The industry was now looking for ways to actively manage its specific structure from the facility itself and all of the required mechanical and electrical underpinnings, right down to the individual asset, to determine its value and efficiency in providing IT service.
This requirement of running IT’s infrastructure - specifically the data center’s - more like a business unit and thus with a high degree of detail, has given birth to the DCIM industry with a wealth of startups. The term “DCIM” was coined by a senior analyst with one of the biggest IT analyst firms in the 2008 timeframe in conjunction with PUE to help describe and differentiate the management landscape associated with the physical resources of a data center versus the more traditional logical data management frameworks. (In fact there was a brief period of time where “PRIM” was the proposed acronym, standing for Physical Resource Infrastructure Management).
Today, there is still a great deal of confusion about DCIM amongst all of the data center stakeholders and within the analyst community alike. As such, the very definition has not converged, with the exception of a single common thread which states that any DCIM solution must have the ability to be involved in both the IT and Facilities aspects of a data center.
Without an industry accepted single definition of DCIM, it has become very popular for hundreds of startups to self-declare their solutions as DCIM offerings, simply due to their ability to affect data center physical IT and Facilities resources. This creates a bit of a problem when end-users are trying to formulate and execute their DCIM strategies since the offerings are so broad and in many cases do not even overlap in capabilities. A portion of this DCIM vendor roster offers comprehensive software lifecycle management tools, while other members offer hardware power or environmental sensors. It is simply not effective to try and compare vendors whose offerings are so different.
What is needed to help reduce end user confusion and allow similarly positioned vendors to fairly compete with their actual peers is a segmentation of the broad DCIM industry. Consider this, DCIM - as it was classically envisioned by the early pioneers, vendors and analysts alike - was intended to allow comprehensive lifecycle management of data center physical resources. The original concept of DCIM included data center floor and rack elevation planning, the workflows associated with moves, adds and changes, and a robust set of management reporting and dashboards to identify efficiency. The spirit of DCIM was to allow new and more predictable ways of looking at a data center full of assets as well as the support infrastructure of mechanical and electrical components (i.e. cooling and power distribution) in a much more holistic manner. DCIM was envisioned to become the ERP for IT. It was to become the enabler for the IT organization to extend and manage their span of control much like all other organizations (Sales, Engineering, Manufacturing, Finance, etc.) had adopted over the years. Each functional organization had automated their processes over the years, investing in purpose-built applications offered by pioneers in their respective spaces. Mission-critical in nature, each organization adopted their own flavor of ERP specifically built for their job at hand. Ironically, each organization likely started with fairly primitive tools sets and in many cases simple spreadsheets, but in all cases other than the IT organization, these business units progressed forward with their own task-specific ERP to enable their organizations to run as a business within the larger organization. ERP applications allow a much more predictable approach to management, with repeatability, policy and reporting.
Today there are but a handful of DCIM vendors that fit this lifecycle management bill, providing comprehensive solutions which allow the ongoing management of resources across IT and Facilities, and allow users to manage their data centers much like a traditional business. These DCIM vendors provide (with varying degrees of success) lifecycle management technology for the data center. So that begs the question; what we should do with the rest of the startups that have entered this DCIM market?
For the sake of clarification, a growing number of industry visionaries are beginning to use the term “DCIM-Ready” to describe a sub-category (of the classic DCIM) which includes all of the remainder of the current DCIM market which enhances the value of the classic DCIM offerings, or those that focus on a subset of the comprehensive lifecycle management goal for DCIM. The specific term “DCIM-Ready” is not as important here, but the role of a sub-category is essential to allow end-users to effectively compare like solutions when creating their DCIM plans. Without this segmentation, customers will continue to be confused by the litany of vendors that self-declare their wares as “DCIM”, only to find out during the evaluation process that each of the vendors being considered offer entirely different solutions sets, some complementary, some competitive, some unrelated altogether.
The term “DCIM-Ready” is used to describe those vendors that offer a portion of the physical resource management solution. If DCIM proper is the ‘brain’ of the ERP for IT approach, DCIM-Ready can be considered as the eyes and ears. Yes, there are exceptions and as we all know there is rarely anything so black and white, but DCIM-Ready solutions in some way enhance and /or augment the chosen DCIM frameworks. DCIM-ready offerings may include environmental or power components, real-time monitoring or analytics engines, service desk and ticketing systems, reporting and dash-boarding, thermal modeling and even some of the traditional building management systems. Essentially anything that is positioned to enhance the Big Picture DCIM goal would be included in the DCIM-Ready category.
By separating the DCIM category into two distinct segments, we can begin to communicate much more clearly and share a common set of vernacular. End-users and vendors alike have the opportunity to better understand the true opportunity and components associated with successful DCIM implementation and deployment. The adoption of a comprehensive and strategic DCIM solution directly supports an organization’s desire to re-engineer their business processes associated with IT. The combination of the traditional IT and Facilities organizations is enabling the transformation of IT service delivery today, and this transformation includes a hybridization of In-House Data Centers, Modular, Co-lo and Cloud. This entirely new approach to computing requires the kind of business discipline typically associated with ERP applications. DCIM is that enabling ERP technology for IT, and DCIM-Ready is the set of enhancements to allow increasingly higher value to be derived from the DCIM journey.
About Mark Harris
Mark very recently joined Nlyte Software to the position of vice president of Marketing and Data Center Strategy. Mr. Harris is well known and respected throughout the DCIM industry from his previous roles at Raritan, Avocent, and Cyclades. Mr. Harris brings to Nlyte Software over thirty years experience in product and channel marketing, sales, and corporate strategy. Mr. Harris joined Nlyte Software from Server Technology Inc., a data center power equipment manufacturer, where he was vice president of Marketing.
About Nlyte Software
Nlyte Software was founded by data center professionals for data center professionals and is the independent provider of DCIM solutions. The Nlyte DCIM suite provides the predictive intelligence and management controls needed to achieve smarter, more efficient and highly available data centers. Nlyte Software is headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif.
All trademarks or registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners and are used for identification purposes only.