Data Center

Can CAD drawings and Excel spreadsheets make perfect substitutes for DCIM?

By the end of March, it will be two years since the publication of David Cappuccio’s seminal Gartner white paper “DCIM: Going beyond IT” (amended March 28th 2010). Urging data center managers to start treating the facility and it’s IT load as a seamless system (also a strategy suggested by the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres, November 2008), Cappuccio made four recommendations:

  1. Begin monitoring overall energy consumption in the data center, either manually or with metering and intelligent power strips, even if you can get only a macro view.
  2. Evaluate DCIM products now, with a focused evaluation, prior to full-fledged adoption.
  3.  Partner with your facilities team to ensure that data center and facilities energy management initiatives don’t overlap.
  4. Begin looking at the cascade effects of change management on the infrastructure, rather than just the change itself.

So how has this pronouncement by one of the industry’s most influential analysts changed attitudes towards data center software in the intervening 24 months? Judging by the continued reliance by data center managers on CAD drawings and Excel spreadsheets to manage their facilities, you’d have to conclude, not a lot.

And yet market interest seems undiminished if the enquiries we receive are a benchmark of this; DCIM vendors appear bullish; the analysts are still talking up the opportunity (the 451 Group predict the DCIM market will be $1.27b by 2015) and the editor of DatacenterDynamics Focus is introducing an ongoing DCIM feature in his magazine to meet the information needs of his readers. The projected wholesale adoption of the software has yet to happen however.

Which makes you wonder whether the market is in fact more conservative or capex starved than we imagined? Or whether the pros are outweighed by the cons? Industry analysts have commented that ROI from DCIM is soft; about the number of choices from a whole host of vendors which beset the potential user; and the fact that data center operators might well already own much of the DCIM functionality that they require embedded within the components which comprise their physical infrastructure.

Or maybe it’s the DCIM vendors themselves that bear the responsibility for slow adoption to date. It could be an unpopular thing to say, but DCIM can be costly to configure, commission and use. It probably requires the services of a well-paid consultant for most companies to get it running effectively. Cappuccio himself states how challenging this aspect of DCIM can be. And we all know – it’s a mantra of this industry – that complexity adds cost.

But things are evolving rapidly. Anyone that’s a veteran PC user (in other words, anyone over 30 years old) probably remembers a time when regular hard disk scanning and defragging, deleting temporary files and editing config.sys were the bare necessities of keeping your computer running at least semi-reliably. Today, our laptops and especially our Mac’s and iPads just go; you install an app and it runs. You get to use the machine productively instead of spending time keeping things running.

In a similar vein, DCIM must become easier to install and configure and deliver a much quicker and more visible return on investment. By then, managing data centers by drawing and spreadsheet will have been consigned to the past.

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