3 of DCIM's lesser-known, but most important, features

3 of DCIM's lesser-known, but most important, features

DCIM without these features isn't DCIM at all.

As data centers become more central to business operations, successful management of these facilities will more directly affect organizations' bottom lines. In fact, the cost-per-minute of downtime has continued to escalate, with the most recent estimate from the Ponemon Institute placed at nearly $9,000.

It's not surprising that the market for data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is on the rise. The need to maximize resource efficiency through meticulous power infrastructure management and to stave off downtime with robust environmental monitoring necessitate a solution that allows for the oversight of these objectives from a single screen. DCIM uses intuitive visualizations complete with reports and dashboards to supply just that for data center managers.

But DCIM's functionality doesn't stop at optimizing day-to-day operations. It also supplies the following less-discussed, but equally important features:

1. Capacity planning

"Capacity planning tools help the administrator calculate the resources and power draw that a data center must support, given current and projected future operations," Margaret Rouse wrote for TechTarget.

In other words, capacity planning is how data center managers make sure they have enough resources to support facility operations now and in the future. For example, a cloud data center may need to shift workloads in a single day in order to offer clients the scalability they desire. Capacity planning helps data center managers make these alterations at scale. DCIM uses complex calculations about how such a change will influence the many other components of the data center, i.e., power consumption, temperature and cooling capacity. Managers can then respond quickly and accurately to support the new loads. 

DCIM modeling eliminates the complexity of predicting risks in the face of change.  DCIM modeling eliminates the complexity of predicting risks in the face of change.

2. Predictive modeling

Predictive modeling is like capacity planning, but it's slightly more open-ended. It allows managers to ask any number of what-if questions so as to develop contingency plans, explore new ways to optimize facility infrastructure, improve resource efficiency or prepare for any change to the status-quo with the help of visual, scenario-based models. 

These capabilities can be hugely beneficial to the overall well-being of a data center, since they provide management with the ability to simulate specific cause-and-effect situations. For example, you may be able to determine the total savings in energy and cost from running servers a few degrees higher than normal. Thus, when you actually enact the changes, there's significantly less risk involved. 

3. Change management 

"Change management reports on all updates prior, during and after implementation."

Traditionally, IT and facilities were siloed functions. The former handled the hardware (servers and other networking equipment) while the latter handled power management, cooling, physical security, building maintenance and other facility-related issues. This method led to the creation of silos, which made change management a very difficult task. It's true that capacity planning and predictive management can help map out scenarios to prevent overburdening specific components (servers, cooling, power, etc.) of the overall facility infrastructure.

However, these features can only function well as long as there are no integration issues between IT and facilities. If, for instance, a middleware update helps servers run more efficiently by lowering overall CPU, the facilities teams will need to know about it so they can make any necessary adjustments and ensure that the change is implemented correctly. 

To that end, the role of change management is to report on all updates prior to, during and after implementation to make sure all transitions are smooth. This keeps IT and facilities on the same page as they enact changes to their data center infrastructure. In an industry where change is the only constant, the importance of change management cannot be overstated.