With vendors pulling out of the DCIM market, a general feeling of disillusionment from customers and confusion of potential prospects considering effective software solutions for managing a modern data centre, there is much current debate in the industry about what’s next for DCIM?
Some industry experts believe DCIM is dead, whilst others believe it needs a complete re-boot with standardisation of offering being driven by the industry itself. But to understand what is next for DCIM the natural starting point is to consider why DCIM implementation projects fail to deliver versus expectations AND what can be done about it.
Typically speaking, activity cycles between facilities, IT and the business are on different timelines: Facilities plan 10 years ahead, IT plans maybe 3 years ahead, and the business would like to see changes and results in weeks or months. In addition to this, terminology between various parts of the business varies and frequently causes confusion. For example, the term ‘infrastructure’ has a different definition, depending on whom you are talking with. There are also several different DCIM products on the market, some of which have been in development for a number of years. However, they are not all like for like, and it’s a complex area. The perception of the process to implement DCIM currently seems to be flawed. DCIM is not a discovery tool, and when expectations are high, it rarely delivers on the value that it can offer, without the correct foundations in place. Customers often adopt full DCIM without scoping out what they need and what it delivers….and there are viable alternatives to a full DCIM implementation, such as DCAM plus power / capacity monitoring.
Markets are generally considered mature when all the vendors offer a cohesive message about what the type of product or service offers. With DCIM, this is still not the case even after several years of it being around, so what is the problem?
In 2010 Gartner predicted that by 2014, DCIM penetration would be up to 60%. In 2015, The Uptime Institute data centre survey showed that only 27% of those surveyed had purchased a commercial DCIM solution. The simple fact is that the market is not maturing as we have expected it to.
Gartner, for its Magic Quadrant, defines DCIM as this: “Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools monitor, measure, manage and sometimes control data centre resources and energy consumption of both IT-related equipment (such as servers, storage and network switches) and facilities infrastructure components (such as power distribution units [PDUs] and computer room air conditioners [CRACs]). DCIM tools are data-center-specific, rather than general building management system (BMS) tools, and are used to optimize data centre power, cooling, networking resources and physical space.”
The problem with this description is that for a DCIM implementation to be successful, software alone is not the answer – we need to understand and design our entire data centre architecture. We should also be looking at proper scoping from the outset, establishing a base of accurate asset data, the right hardware, systems integration, consulting, training and staff skills, as well as internal organisational and process changes. The promises made by various vendors, whilst not untrue, have given the impression that all organisations can reach DCIM utopia in a relatively short timeframe, and it’s this flawed planning that has ridiculed many business cases, and made a high percentage of DCIM customers disillusioned with the product that they have chosen. Not only that, but they could also feel locked in to that vendor, and have footed a series of rather large bills to boot.
Software on its own isn’t the answer
With its capacity to create significant energy efficiency and operational gains, Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is a highly useful and effective tool when deployed properly.
However, all too often there is a failure to build a solid foundation for DCIM – something that can only be achieved by having accurate and effective asset management in place. One of the key reasons why all too often DCIM’s potential is unfulfilled is the continued failure to established that foundation of accurate asset data to build other intelligent layers upon. That, plus robust IMAC processes in place and regular validation audits to maintain those high levels of accuracy so that reporting on the entire estate can be trusted.
The other fundamental error is to jump in straight to solution mode of the DCIM being the answer, without the proper scoping of effective data centre management requirements, from not only a software point of view but integrations, processes and people required to support whatever solution is put in place.
Many of the pain points are well documented and collectively we are starting to learn our lessons. DCIM implementation spans several aspects of a business, including both facilities and IT – neither of which are simple environments. Below are just a few examples of the pain points documented that DCIM had promised, but failed to solve:
- Unable to know what is connected to what (manage relationships and dependencies)
- Unable to find available resources (rack space, power, cooling, network, IP addresses, etc)
- Companies constrained by proprietary DCIM software
- Challenges aligning legacy and new systems with a BMS
- Difficulties keeping track with changes and de-installations preventing real-time understanding of what’s in your data centre.
- Poor monitoring and aligning of legacy infrastructure resulting in significant financial losses
- Critical gaps in management information between IT and Facilities Managers
- Unable to perform accurate capacity planning
- Unable to comply with internal and external regulatory audits
- Lack of standards-based, database connectivity, APIs, for integration with internal systems
The flaws with the process – Why DCIM Projects really fail
There are several common issues in our environments that haven’t been considered, and a number of common oversights in the implementation of the programme. Here is why the programmes really fail:
- Understanding your businesses needs – This is the most critical starting point – work down from top level business objectives. Only add in elements that directly link to business objectives and be sure to scope requirements fully.
- Tendering for too much! – There is no point in finding really expensive solutions if you don’t need half of the functionality – relates to scoping point above
- Hype from vendors around promised benefits – Please, please ignore the hype, and take ownership of the programme to realise the benefits when and where you need them. Ask for evidence of functionality in the form of a thorough demo AND ideally supported by usage case studies.
- Upselling from vendors – Again, don’t buy anything that you don’t need. Always refer back to the business case / scope, which defines your business needs.
- Setting up the programme and stakeholders – It’s a programme, not a project. Set it up as such, assign roles and clear responsibilities and hold regular meetings. Set up the individual sub-projects with their own project managers with clear expectations of timings and budgets for each.
- Getting your internal processes and procedures in check – Before your programme is initiated, have all your processes documented and in play. You will be going no-where without this one. When assessing vendors ascertain the levels of implementation support required / given and costs.
- Knowing what’s in your DC – This ties in with the above – all change processes need to be in place, and they can only be effective if you know what is where. A Data Centre Asset audit is recommended to establish full visibility and accuracy maintained through validation audits and IMAC process.
- Not laying out each tranche and project within the programme and understanding the costs associated – Take ownership of the cost and benefit management within the programme – don’t let the vendors own it. It’s your environment. If you are deeply involved with this part of the planning, then you will uncover all the hidden costs, and be able to plan and set expectations accordingly.
- Not linking benefits to a timeline of business requirements – The benefits mentioned above should be prioritized and communicated with the business. These programmes take a long time to deliver fully, so you need to show value along the way, but that value has to match the business requirements. Timeline it – it’s a powerful tool that will help you maintain your reputation. Ensure it’s agreed by key stakeholders from the outset.
- Purchasing a standalone system that doesn’t talk to anything else – It is rarely advisable nowadays to create software that doesn’t talk to anything else. Create a flexible architecture that can evolve, and only engage with vendors who will work with that.
If you can address the above 10 points in your DCIM programme, you may become a future DCIM success, and goodness knows we need more of those.
Your chance to shape the future of DCIM
So where is the DCIM industry going? It’s clear from the above that something needs to change and fast – change needs to be driven by the industry itself to be fit for purpose. That’s why we need feedback and opinions from vendors, customers, prospects, suppliers and leading industry experts. That’s why the DCIM Deliberations Group has been formed.
The working group was setup amongst growing unease in the DCIM arena and its composition is a mix of industry experts. The initiative is completely non-commercial, and is by the industry for the industry.
We argue that the general population, even those in the data Centre industry itself, does not fully comprehend the differences between the vendors to make a good comparison and that there is not a cohesive message given from them all. So how can we expect customers to understand the DCIM proposition, functionality and benefits to adopt and implement it successfully?
Our key objectives for this piece of work:
1) To provide clarity around the state of the DCIM market and possible future directions
2) To offer a benchmarking framework where companies can intelligently go to tender for the right DCIM solutions for them
3) To educate around the process of implementing DCIM in order that companies see ROI in expected timeframes
Our Team: Myself, Steve Beber, Alfonso Arias, Daniel Tautges, Monika Grass, Ken Peters.
To deliver on the objectives we are issuing a market wide global survey to get 1st hand insight from the industry.
We want people to get involved in this survey to find out what is REALLY happening, so that both end users, and vendors alike can figure out where to go next. We believe the DCIM industry is reaching a crisis point, and needs to adapt or evolve.
We need first hand information to know where to go next. It is time to speak – please get involved by taking our survey
You can also get involved in the ongoing debate by joining the LinkedIn Group
For more information on our initiative, please click here