Traditional data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools that only manage power, cooling, and space are no longer sufficient to support the demands of modern data centers, which are now comprised of hybrid ecosystems with physical and virtual resources located both on-premises and in the cloud. As these hybrid ecosystems continue to increase in complexity, traditional tools simply fall short when it comes to managing various technologies, storage locations, service providers, billing models, and dependencies between the individual infrastructure elements or considering network aspects in change workflows or capacity monitoring.
Today, a DCIM tool must manage all ITC data within a central system, from the physical and logical layers to virtualization, including all cable and network aspects and services. Additional requirements of a DCIM tool include the ability to select and manage new hardware platforms, cloud concepts, network capacity, and software-defined networking or network fabrics. A future-proof DCIM tool can offer complete transparency into the entire ITC landscape and enable solid planning, efficient processes, and automation. This central management hub and optimization platform will provide a comprehensive, integrated view of all resources throughout the data center.
Let’s take a look at the key characteristics of a future-proof DCIM tool.
Centralized database — A future-proof DCIM tool must bring data from various departments together into one database instead of documenting them separately in small, independent applications. This centralized approach guarantees the timeliness, integrity, and coherence of the data. A future-proof DCIM tool must also provide automatic plausibility checks to synchronize information and maintain data quality at all times. This enables holistic management and faster analysis of the entire documentation because accurate data is available at any time and interlinked.
Standard formats — Future-proof DCIM software must set the standard for the company and provide a range of operational functions, while remaining adaptable where necessary and appropriate. Having the flexibility to change attributes or individual reports without complex customization, which entails extensive and repeated adjustments, is key. With a modern DCIM tool, updating the distribution of tasks between different teams or enabling an efficient integration with other installed systems, should be a seamless process.
Scalability — A future-proof DCIM tool must be able to handle a variety of scenarios that can arise in any business such rapid growth, spin-offs, mergers, or consolidation. Accordingly, the DCIM tool must be able to quickly roll out applications for these new uses such as a blueprint for new locations or licensing, consolidation, or equipment moves.
A DCIM tool must also be to keep pace with digital transformation. While the physical aspects of a data center only gradually changes over a period of five years, expectations of software are a different matter entirely. The leap to 3D, for example, only happened recently, yet 3D depictions are widely utilized today. There is also a lot of discussion surrounding the use of AR/VR and BIM in data centers, and a few pilot projects have already been successfully completed. Another important development is machine learning, which will support forward-looking management.
To support each of these use cases, a platform is needed that provides the necessary data from one or multiple sites. Ideally, the tool will provide data for other applications via interfaces or by being preconfigured for specific use cases.
Smart integrations — As ITC environments are constantly changing, DCIM tools must be able to be integrated with other systems easily, securely, inexpensively, and reliably. Unlike specialist solutions, which are static and can only communicate with each other, integration offers the necessary flexibility to take advantage of new opportunities and remain a step ahead of the competition. This is especially relevant with regard to “northbound” integration with higher-level IT systems, such as service management.
Vendor independence — Many hardware manufacturers offer DCIM systems to complement their products. The downside of using these systems is that they are specialized for a single vendor, which can create issues when attempting to integrate with other brands, other systems or in the event of an acquisition. Since the data center keeps the entire business running, it needs to be managed via a future-proof DCIM system that supports all IT vendors.
Active product maintenance — While all vendors update their tools, IT lifecycles have shortened considerably. In just a few years the “pizza box” evolved into blade server to converged systems, with the latter having now largely disappeared from the debate. Suppliers of traditional DCIM tools often find it difficult to keep pace with the latest IT advances in a timely fashion and update their software and template libraries accordingly. For instance, cable management functionality recently had to be retrofitted because a manufacturer had developed a new cassette technology for data center cabling. Tools must be able to reflect these evolutionary changes with minimum delay; simply having a modern user interface is not enough.
Overall, organizations must be proactive in keeping pace with today’s global markets and that starts with optimizing data center processes. Traditional DCIM tools simply cannot handle the requirements of a modern data center. Future-proof DCIM tools can effectively support rapid technological change, digitalization, cloud adoption, enterprise-wide data exchanges, as well as future demands. When looking for a DCIM tool, a central database, the ability to integrate, standard formats, scalability, vendor independence, and active product maintenance are key features and functions to keep in mind.