For years, we have been planning and waiting for the “Next Generation Data Center” where we can integrate IT and facilities systems together and manage our resources altogether more efficiently and cost effectively. And, what has emerged is data center infrastructure management (DCIM). By recent counts there are about 75 vendors, consisting of both small startups and major, well-entrenched players.

Since DCIM “as a product” came upon the scene over six years ago, Gartner’s Hype Cycle seems to have depicted precisely the way that DCIM has been perceived by potential buyers. Starting with the “Initial Peak of Inflated Expectations,” followed by the depressing “Trough of Disillusionment,” then moving upward onto the “Slope of Enlightenment,” and finally the last stage of the “Plateau of Productivity.”

Do you think we have reached the “plateau” or the “slope?” Some of us do! But what I am hearing from the most astute students and analysts of our time is that even our “best” DCIM solutions on the market “cost too much to justify” and just “don’t work the way they are supposed to work,” and seem to be “disillusioned”to me.

During a recent webinar titled, “Five Reasons DCIM has Failed,” Bill Ball of Data Center Dynamics said, “Historically, DCIM systems have over-promised and under-delivered. Vendors have supplied complex and costly solutions which fail to address real business drivers and goals. Yet the rewards can be vast and go well beyond better-informed decision-making to facilitate continuous improvement and cost savings across the infrastructure.” This concerns me but I want more validation.

And there is a lot of validation. The most explicit expression of concerns that I have witnessed came at a recent interview at the last Uptime Symposium in Santa Clara titled, “DCIM from Hype to Production — What the Vendors Didn’t Tell Us.” There we saw 451 Group analyst and DCIM expert Rhonda Ascierto, along with Raging Wire CTO William Dougherty, speak candidly about the deployment of a multi-data center DCIM solution where plans didn’t come together as expected. They went into detail about how both the cost and the schedule of implementation actually doubled during the deployment, and how the data center operations staff was extremely burdened with equipment data collection, interpretation, and management activities that were not anticipated at the outset.

And this is all just about the MEP facilities side of the equation so far. When we try to tie technology and facilities together things become even more difficult to predict. We just don’t seem to want to take the time to understand how we can correctly balance the “facilities to IT” equation.

According to Henry Wong of Intel Corporation, “In my opinion, the under-delivery stems from a rush to offer software solutions prior to establishing common structures and practical usage options beyond existing capabilities (e.g., environmental monitoring). The industry has also failed to establish the fundamental intersection between IT monitoring and control (e.g., DMTF) and facilities monitoring and control (e.g., BACnet). If the industry is to realize the advantages we want, we need to develop a uniform approach, supported by common standards and protocols (e.g., ECMA 400IT) that everyone can work with together.”

If I read Henry right, I think he means that many software programs are not yet sophisticated enough to accurately and effectively integrate IT and facilities equipment operations, and that the deployment of these systems will be very difficult to predict until we have standards in place. So, does that mean we just need a little time to get it right? I think so, but I also think that we can do part of it well already. And that is to save energy and save money.

Craig Compiano, CEO of Modius, suggests that the best strategy is to develop a long term plan that starts with the core monitoring and measurement needs of your data center to track and trend the “supply and demand” of critical power and cooling to the data center. According to Craig, the Modius Open Data solution is a proven solution that integrates data from a portfolio of data centers into a single data base and allows for synchronized, normalized, and real time data analytics. It can provide data granular enough to allow an operator to improve facilities and IT efficiencies that will pay for itself in short order, often in less than a year once operating and labor efficiencies take hold. Then, when savings are being realized from the efficiency gains, the DCIM system can be expanded with integration to other systems and expanded functionality. This approach provides an organization with the framework for collaboration and incremental investment — and validates that the DCIM technology can support the essential infrastructure objectives of the stakeholders.

OpenData, recognized by Gartner in their “DCIM Magic Quadrant,” grew up in the data center environment and includes patented data integration technologies suitable for both legacy and new data center equipment models that accelerates the deployment of the systems. It is important to remember that failing to implement an effective energy management solution to realize these savings comes with a “lost opportunity cost” that every data center operator should measure and consider to justify making a “Go/NoGo” DCIM decision. The numbers are persuasive, and you will find that time is of the essence ... “DCIM’d if you do and DCIM’d if you don’t.”

And, if you have a smaller space and budget or just can’t get budget even for a 12 month ROI, Tanja Lewit of Kentix offers mobile solutions that virtually anyone can afford to put into place. It provides your IT spaces with much of what you need all in “one box.” Kentix, a new monitoring solution provider in Germany, offers data collection, logging, and alerting all in one multi-sensor enclosure. According to Tanja, “We deploy in racks or in areas above the servers, below raised floors, in the nooks and crannies of overstuffed server racks, to simplistically monitor the environment and keep the area safe and secure.”

A basic Kentix system offers continuous monitoring and logging with a Multi-Sensor LAN that covers about 300 sq ft and monitors temperature, humidity, dewpoint, pre-smoke, CO2, fire, motion, vibration, sabotage, and access control. Alarms and alerts comes to you on your cell phone and no centralized software is required. It is set up with a cell phone app and presents the ongoing status of your space, all right on your phone. Kentix also offers repeaters that allow coverage of up to about 10,000  sq ft with the distribution of the multi sensors, and proprietary KMS-RACKs to add power monitoring and logging at the rack level and creating a secure Zigbee wireless mesh that includes ANSI 802.15-4 encryption.

Furthermore, DCIM and data center consultant Julius Neudorfer has just completed a five-part publication that I think is worth reading, especially if you are in the midst of planning a DCIM deployment (See here). His summary is also worth quoting, “When evaluating DCIM’s potential cost justifications, start by considering your organization’s culture and its strategic vision for computing, not just the physical data center. The maximum benefits of a DCIM investment will only be realized by what your own organization does with the information it provides, and by which management domains will own, operate, and derive value from the DCIM system. In the end, DCIM’s long-term value and cost justification will be decided by the degree of convergence among stakeholders and their agendas and politics.” Good luck!


Critical Facilities Roundtable

In June of 2015, Critical Facilities RoundTable (CFRT) and Mission Critical Magazine brought together nearly 350 attendees to witness the inaugural “Data center and Computing Conference” at New York City’s Time Square Marriott Marquis. CFRT is a non-profit organization based in Silicon Valley that is dedicated to the discussion and resolution of industry issues regarding mission-critical facilities, their engineering and design, management, operations, and maintenance. We provide an open forum for our members and their guests to share information and to learn about new mission-critical technologies with the intention of helping our members improve in technical expertise and to develop solutions for the challenges of their day-to-day critical facilities operations. Please visit our website at or contact us at 415-748-0515 for more information. n