DCIM: A win-win proposition

Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is no longer a new concept. This idea of bringing together facilities and IT management within the data centre to help customers monitor and manage their usage has been around for at least five years.

With DCIM allowing for increased efficiencies by enabling customers to view and manage power usage to suit their needs, the commercial reasons for adoption are evident. However, while interest is high, 451 Research claimed that in 2015 no more than 15 per cent of midsized data centres have DCIM deployed. So why has DCIM adoption in the UK and globally remained slow?

Adoption trends and hurdles

A 2015 IDC report projected that the DCIM market will grow at a rate of about 16 per cent annually until 2019. Although this shows steady growth, there are still millions upon millions of racks that have not yet utilised DCIM, leaving a huge opportunity for businesses everywhere to benefit from the rich analytics that it offers.

A fairly straightforward technology, a comprehensive DCIM deployment consists of specialised software, hardware and sensors that allows customers to monitor and manage their consumption as if they were in the data centre themselves. These insights enable customers to make their power usage more efficient and lower overall costs. But as well as offering this solution, data centre providers need to ensure that customers fully understand the potential benefits, or it risks being overlooked and under used, as is often the case at the moment.

This is not the only issue though, as the ability to flex power requirements up and down come into direct conflict with many commercial data centre models, which rely on long term, costly and inflexible contracts to safeguard their operations. Having DCIM under these conditions becomes ineffective unless customers have the power to amend their contracted usage commitments to reflect actual real-time consumption.

Meeting industry challenges

With growing reliance on data centres to power an increasingly digital world, the space, power and cooling demands placed on them have increased exponentially.

Peter Greaves, Expertise Leader at Aurecon has claimed that data centres are responsible for consuming three per cent of all the electricity produced globally each year. Clearly, data centre providers and customers need to examine how they can work together to increase efficiencies and reduce spiralling energy consumption and cost. DCIM is one way of facilitating this collaboration.

For obvious reasons, data centre providers have historically not been very quick to advice customers when they could scale down requirements. DCIM gives greater visibility and puts the control firmly back into the power of the customer – giving them insights into their daily usage, allowing them to manage their capacity in real-time and act on the analytics.

However, those insights are only useful if they have the flexibility to scale down their contracts. Several innovative providers are already offering this capability and are actually using DCIM to create new commercial models, which makes choosing the right intelligent data centre provider more critical than ever.

Where’s the value?

Not all providers are enthusiastic about DCIM. This is particularly true with older generation data centres that were not designed for DCIM and face prohibitive installation costs. Issues over cost are further complicated by the fact that DCIM spans both IT and Facilities - two areas which don’t normally overlap. This has been known to create disagreements, for example, over whose budget should be used to pay for DCIM.

In spite of this, DCIM is becoming an essential part of the intelligent data centre. It should no longer be seen as an add-on, but instead as something that is integral. With more customers come more demands and they will expect their providers to offer the most advanced solutions available.

As well as creating a more competitive data centre service offering, if providers are offering an effective DCIM solution and educating customers on its use – and not charging for it – then not only will this attract CIOs, but also CFOs. Although CIOs have the expertise, they need CFOs onside to believe in and finance their decisions, meaning the CFO is just as vital in some cases.

Supplying visibility also creates value to providers, building trust and strengthening the customer relationship. Operators need to change the perception that DCIM reduces their control, and instead see it as realigning focus. DCIM simply gives the customer access and control over what is really rightfully theirs: it’s their data, their power consumption, why shouldn’t they be allowed to both monitor and control it?

A win-win proposition

Data centres are no longer just a black box used for computing, they now have the opportunity to be agile and react to what is actually happening. But to make this a genuine reality, operators need to meet their customers half way, which will result in shared benefit.

Offering customers visibility over resource consumption through DCIM, and in turn allowing them to act on the results leads to the relationship between the two stakeholders becoming more honest, flexible and mutual.

With so much to be gained, the industry can’t afford to view DCIM as an afterthought any longer.

David Watkins, Service Delivery Director, VIRTUS Data Centres

Image source: Shutterstock/Ralwel