Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) Offers Clarity of Operations
Asking five data center managers how to manage a data center from a technology perspective — software, remotely and integrated — would likely yield at least eight different answers. The same question posed to a data center's facilities department would generate equally disparate responses. Ask that same question of a data center IT manager and a data center facilities manager at the same time and watch the fireworks fly. Why? Data centers are not managed by one group or department. While there is a larger goal in meeting the overall objectives of the company, the various departments often act as autonomous collectives. Data centers, however, are not owned by departments but by companies, and managing one should be a joint corporate effort.
Today, data centers can be managed as a total enterprise using data center infrastructure management (DCIM), or a "middleware," a software/hardware component which can tie formerly or currently different systems into a congruent monitoring environment. These dissimilar systems are often "owned" by different responsible departments. However, these systems can be configured to report up one chain of event and alert management.
The benefits of a good DCIM/middleware solution include faster change control; better, more coordinated, change management; views into the electrical and HVAC systems in reference to information and communications technology; views into IT and facility asset management; space planning; and general building environmental monitoring. It is important for facility managers to keep in mind when selecting a DCIM or middleware solution that because DCIM and middleware integrates independent systems beyond facilities, there is no means to discuss DCIM without concepts of an integration with the facility's systems.
What Is Available Today?
It does not take an in-depth study of the currently available DCIM solutions to realize that there are three broad categories of software: systems focused on facilities (BMS/BAS/EPMS) with some IT-type capabilities; systems focused on IT (SNMP/Network Monitoring/Asset Management) with some BMS/BAS/EPMS capability; and those rare systems that focus somewhat equally in each area (facilities and information and communications technology).
There are both benefits and drawbacks to the current offerings based on which side of the fence the providing company grew up. Should the IT department be looking into DCIM, they would naturally focus on typical network management systems providers for a solution. Likewise, should DCIM be facilities-driven, traditional manufacturers of building systems can provide DCIM predicated on those building systems. However, with the high costs associated with DCIM procurement, installation and operations, it will make sense to view DCIM at the enterprise level and find a solution that works for each.