Cloud computing is taking enterprise IT by storm. More companies are leveraging resources in the cloud and using either private, hybrid or public solutions for different tasks. This requires 24/7 management of data centers. Data centers are very expensive to run, require a lot of equipment and facility space, and consume immense energy. In fact, according to a report from the New York Times, they can consume as much energy as a medium-sized town:
“It’s staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems,” said Peter Gross, who helped design hundreds of data centers. “A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.”
This is why effective management of data center resources — including energy consumption and cooling — is critical. Facebook, when it was a much smaller company in early 2006, faced a huge problem when its main data center was about to go down due to Ethernet sockets overheating. Luckily, Facebook got through this and the social network wasn’t offline for long, and it learned form the mistake. Now the company uses multiple data centers, modern cooling systems and green energy and is looking for effective data center infrastructure management (DCIM) methods and technicians in order to stay ahead of competition.
And Facebook isn’t alone in wanting to hire people with this expertise, as nearly half of enterprises in North America and Europe are budgeting for private cloud investments this year.
What is Data Center Infrastructure Management?
Data center infrastructure management is a relatively new profession in the world of IT that emerged in the last year and a half or so, when integrated solutions, like Trellis (discussed below), started to become more widely available. DCIM deals with improving the way data centers function with the efficient management of resources within them. With this in place, companies save on long-term costs and can continue function with as little hiccups as possible. Data centers require a lot of capital investments, so managing them efficiently will benefit any company either running its own private cloud or outsourcing to others as a provider. DCIM allows for managers to see a more comprehensive view and analysis of all the resources being run from a data center. One of its goals is the integration of different data center functions under one platform.
Many companies still cannot afford efficient DCIM plans and continue running old equipment as well as outdated energy consumption and cooling methods. According to a November 2012 press release from CA Technologies, “Nearly 85 percent of organizations say that issues with datacenter power, space and cooling capacity—as well as asset and uptime issues—resulted in delayed or aborted application rollouts, reduced ability to support customers, and unplanned reallocation of OpEx and CapEx budget away from strategic goals during the past year.”
This study, conducted by market research firm IDC, stresses the importance of DCIM among data center operators. Companies running data centers reported they faced many problems with outdated data centers, fragmented data center operations, and inconsistent data center information. Unification of management tools will solve many of the problems organizations face when it comes to data center management:
“The study highlights the fact that datacenter management tools are often manual and fragmented. It suggests that a more unified approach to Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) can empower organizations to get more value from their existing datacenter investments and better support IT-based business innovation.”
This is the reason why DCIM is becoming such an important field to any company running data centers. Here are some ways managers surveyed by IDC pointed out that DCIM can benefit their organizations if implemented right:
- Real-time monitoring of power, temperature and other variables
- Alerts and alarms for power and cooling
- Inventory and asset management
- Capacity analysis and planning
Examples of Some DCIM Solutions Available
DCIM is growing with capabilities and approaches. Some approaches use specialized hardware to give tools to managers. For instance, Emerson’s Trellis DCIM platform integrates an Avocent Universal Management Gateway Appliance tool that is integrated with software.
According to Data Center Knowledge, “The Trellis approach spans hardware and software, and hopes to span the gap between IT and facilities departments.”
There are four main software applications that work with the hardware. They include Trellis Inventory Manager, Trellis Site Manager, Trellis Change Planner, and Trellis Energy insight. The Avocent hardware and Trellis software also has integration with data center storage, servers, power, cooling, space, and connections. Various professionals are needed to effectively run the Trellis DCIM platform. You can see a diagram of the different functions the platform provides here:
Another example of a DCIM platform is Nlyte’s DCIM suite. It is currently software-based and focuses on three key aspects:
- Accelerating on-boarding of new customers
- Increasing customer responsiveness
- Improving operational efficiency
The software suite offers service providers a five-step lifecycle of hosted environments (data centers and physical infrastructure within them). It is also modular so that service providers can mix and match capabilities to fit business needs based on the platform’s DCIM process lifecycle. Check out the product brief here.
There are various DCIM solutions available on the market already, however choosing one is easier said than done. It really depends on a company’s needs — such as power consumption, data center size, whether the equipment is modern or outdated, and other factors. Datacenterknolwedge.com analyzed different solutions for different management needs. A lot of DCIM solutions help companies alleviate costs in investing in new capital, because it helps companies find ways to use legacy hardware inside the data centers to its fullest. As ITBusiness points out:
Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is taking the enterprise industry by storm, a testament to the fact that (a) the physical layer still matters, and (b) quite a lot of efficiency can still be squeezed out of legacy infrastructure.
DCIM Knowledge Should Provide Great Benefits for Any IT Professional
ITBusiness noted that DCIM can reduce data center operational costs by over 30 percent. The field will continue to advance and is a great direction for IT professionals to work toward, especially those who have management experience. You will need some expertise in data center hardware (servers and routers), general IT knowledge, knowledge of HVAC systems, cloud computing expertise, data center operations expertise, and IT management skills. You’ll also need to be comfortable working with multi-tenant and multi-platform environments. Comprehensive expertise in just one of these areas may be enough for managers to get interested in the skill set you can provide. DCIM platforms are constantly changing and evolving, so regardless of your career path, it would be wise to start to familiarize yourself with the way they function, but if you’re looking for a long-term career and a field with a lot of room for growth, DCIM might be the path for you.
Related: Check out our IT resume guide.
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