Building Operating Management

How DCIM Can Be Used In Greenfield, Legacy Data Centers

Where there is an existing plant, a middleware DCIM system is ideal. Configured and placed on the Industrial Ethernet or IT network, the object of the system is to listen on the wire for any pre-defined data or receive traps from legacy management/monitoring systems and report or archive according to the intent as defined during installation.

The benefits of this type of installation include using existing BMS/BAS/EPMS (emergency power management system) and network management systems and less installation time since the points at the far end are already connected. However, many drawbacks exist. They include: the risk that custom software will be have to be developed to fit existing systems; incomplete data gathering based on the possibility that the building's legacy 'tool' cannot integrate; the potential that staff may tire of the system prior to full implementation and shelve it; concern that the DCIM will be yet another platform to increase operational expenses (server, monitor, PC, license and maintenance costs); and the probability that something on the raised floor will change during DCIM implementation, rendering Day 1 data out of date.

Don't let the drawbacks weigh too heavy, though. Tying existing systems into a central point of collection wisely capitalizes on the existing investment in management systems and enables cross-system data sharing. But be wary when checking into DCIM or middleware. Ask a lot of questions and provide the vendors with a list of the systems for desired integration.

Questions should include the obvious: Can you integrate with everything on my list? What protocols have you successfully integrated with? What systems have you successfully integrated with? Can I use this to tie not only one, but multiple data centers together?

Be prepared for a lot of "vaporware." Middleware and DCIM at this level of integration is an emerging field and vendors will make promises that the next release will contain everything. Don't expect an out-of-box solution from any of them — there are just too many types of systems. Consider creating a bubble diagram that shows the existing systems by manufacturer name and function and reveals any existing relationship between the two, as well as the desired future relationships. This can go a long way toward illustrating the desired equipment.

A greenfield installation of DCIM is significantly more straightforward than that of an existing plant. With a greenfield installation, so long as the topic of DCIM is brought up early and often, building systems can be selected with the DCIM in mind across the facilities and IT teams. Since many BAS/BMS systems have already integrated with different DCIM systems, creating a matrix of what is to be monitored, how it will be monitored, information on protocols, head-ends and possible conflicts will be helpful when it comes to purchasing these systems, which will tie into the DCIM.

While DCIM is not without risk, the reward of enabling formerly disparate systems, components, devices and software processes to communicate with each other is worth the potential drawbacks. In fact, early adopters of DCIM found the return on investment gained in cooling efficiencies alone to be between 18 and 24 months. Today's adopters will quickly become the beneficiaries of enhanced wireless capabilities and the ultimate goal — event correlation across all systems. This alone should promote DCIM.

Alan Dash RCDD/OSP, CCSE and Global Technology Lead, Syska Hennessy Group, has more than 30 years of experience on information communications technology consulting and designing for a diverse array of structures, including data centers. He can be reach at

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  posted on 5/18/2012   Article Use Policy