A data center is a facility that houses various computing, storage, and networking equipment to support the IT needs of an organization.
Data center infrastructure refers to the physical and hardware-based resources and components that make up a data center.
Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) represents the convergence of IT and building facilities functions toward the optimized fulfillment of data center assignments.
DCIM provides administrators and managers with a holistic view of a data center’s performance, allowing for the optimization of energy, equipment, and floor space. DCIM software and tools can help data centers achieve maximum energy efficiency while preventing equipment issues that can lead to downtime.
Successful implementation of effective DCIM solutions can bring organizations significant operational and cost-saving benefits, both in the short and long term.
Data center infrastructure management strives to go beyond basic device monitoring to achieve a comprehensive understanding of what’s happening within a data center environment. This understanding can help proactively identify and address problems while also determining optimal equipment placement and operation.
The incorporation of cloud technology into data centers and their management tools has significantly increased DCIM capabilities. Next generation, cloud-based DCIM tools are increasingly taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and real-time analytics to offer increasingly advanced features and benefits compared to traditional DCIM.
Because cloud-based DCIM is delivered via the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, it is far easier to deploy than on-premises offerings, often capable of being fully operational within a single day. Software, firmware, and security updates are delivered automatically, while backup and recovery options are available anytime, anywhere.
Data center infrastructure (DCI) components are the various systems and resources – both physical and virtual – assembled within a data center to optimally perform desired applications or assignments.
These components include countless makes and models of supporting hardware, as well as the entirety of supporting computing and non-computing software. Together, these components power applications, process and store data, and provide secure, shared network access to users.
Data center infrastructure components include racks housing IT equipment and supporting infrastructure like switches, transformers, HVAC systems, and uninterruptable power supplies (UPS).
DCI components can generally be classified as either core or support components.
Often the most well-known aspects of a data center, data center core components include servers, computers, networking equipment (routers and switches), security (firewalls and biometric security systems), storage (storage area networks [SAN]), backup/tape storage, as well as data center management software and applications.
Core physical components include non-computing resources like physical server racks, chassis, and cabling, that house and connect core computing equipment.
Sometimes referred to as environmental infrastructure, support components, such as electricity and cooling equipment, make up the infrastructure designed to support core operations.
Some of the most important support components are those dedicated to power. These elements make up the electrical infrastructure necessary to provide and maintain primary and backup power supplies.
Cooling components, such as HVAC and sprinkler systems, are also vitally important to support infrastructure as many of the physical components of a data center are capable of generating significant heat. To mitigate this heat generation, data centers must contain cooling components able to regulate temperature and humidity.
A key part of data center design, structural components are physical aspects of data center facilities designed to mitigate the risk of outage caused by acts of nature such as floods or earthquakes. Other design elements can increase efficiencies, such as raised floors and gaps that make more effective use of vertical space while making it easier for technicians to access connectivity and cooling infrastructure.
Because much of the data and applications housed within data centers are of a sensitive nature, security components are also extremely important to a data center. These components are crucial to protecting the performance and integrity of the data center’s core components.
Access to floors and buildings is typically guarded by locked doors and robust security infrastructures that include security personnel, while many data centers feature isolated, locked server rooms with limited access.
Additionally, data centers must have security protocols such as firewalls, data access controls, IPS, WAF, and Web Application and API Protection (WAAP) systems, capable of scaling to meet the demands of data center networks without compromising effectiveness.
Data center infrastructure management tools are designed to improve data center design, increase operational efficiency, and help manage energy consumption.
These tools monitor, measure, manage, and control data center resources and energy consumption for 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]).
While many of these tools have similar real-world applications, DCIM tools are data center specific, rather than general building management system tools, and are used to optimize data center power, cooling, and physical space
DCIM tools are essential in enabling administrators to monitor and manage relationships between a data center facility and its IT systems, including power usage effectiveness (PUE) and cooling system energy efficiency.
DCIM software is used to measure, monitor, and manage the IT equipment and supporting infrastructure, including power and cooling systems, of a data center. The software can be hosted on-premises or in the cloud, and bridges information across organizational domains – data center ops, facilities, and IT – to maximize a data center’s utilization.
DCIM software enables data center operators to run efficient operations while improving infrastructure design planning.
The software gives managers the ability to identify, locate, visualize, and manage all physical data center assets, quickly provision new equipment, and effectively plan future growth. Software must be able to monitor and manage power, temperature, and environment in real time.
DCIM software must also support resource management beyond typical IT asset management, including location and interrelationships between assets.
The software can be generally categorized into either monitoring/automation and planning/implementation.
Integration and accessibility are extremely important, as DCIM software must be able to integrate with existing management software to best track automated and integrated data center workflows.
Monitoring and automation software ensures a data center is operating as designed, focusing on the monitoring and automation of IT room and facility power, environmental control, and security.
Monitoring software provides user-configurable thresholds for alarms on physical devices, including heat, ventilation, and air conditioning. It can also report on real-time, average, and peak power use while measuring and determining power usage effectiveness (PUE).
One common use for monitoring software is to create and maintain a materials catalog. DCIM software can create limitless libraries of material lists including basic specifications, servers, storage and networking equipment, and PDUs.
DCIM monitoring software performs constant data analysis, collecting real-time data, such as hardware metrics, to help mitigate outages or other incidents.
This type of software is designed to help IT managers facilitate data center updates and changes, deploy and operate new equipment for peak efficiency, and track assets.
Planning and implementation software is built to support “what-if” scenarios to assist with planning while reducing total cost of ownership. This software also supports the use of physical architecture, including floor space consideration for hardware components like servers, network switches, airflow, cooling systems, and PDUs.
A popular type of DCIM software focuses on future capacity planning, which involves estimating space, computer hardware, software, and connection infrastructure resources. DCIM software can construct data center models for future scenarios based on specified limitations and scenarios.
Another element of planning software includes change management, in which DCIM must take hardware replacement into account to avoid risks like downtime or malfunctions. The DCIM software takes process changes into account and can be used to maintain an audit trail of requests and work orders.
When executed effectively, DCIM should effectively address goals such as improved data center design, increased operational efficiency, and optimized energy consumption.
Specific operations that benefit from effective DCIM include:
The ability of DCIM to monitor equipment and build reports based on gathered data provide real-time feedback on the health of a data center and awareness of any equipment that might need service or replacement.
Through constant monitoring of critical facilities infrastructure, DCIM is capable of reacting before failures can impact users or services. Real-time management features offer proactive incident management as well as valuable present and future insight into the state of a data center.
The AI and machine learning capabilities of DCIM software greatly improve capacity planning and utilization. Software features can help organizations quickly model and allocate space for new hardware and facilities equipment.
DCIM tools measure and track energy consumption for all IT-related equipment, reducing energy usage and costs. With DCIM software managing a data center’s power chain, relationships between IT equipment and critical facilities infrastructure can be monitored and adjusted with just a few clicks.
By automatically collecting data from building feeds, IT loads, and non-IT loads for immediate calculation and trending of PUE across all data centers, DCIM can ensure organizations meet energy efficiency goals.
Additionally, DCIM gives IT departments the ability to monitor across multiple locations remotely, with automated alerts helping IT track physical and logical components and warning of possible issues and failures.
DCIM can handle reservations, moves, adds, and changes through fully integrated and automated workflow management as well as process assurance, tracking, and audit trails.
In short, if your organization uses a data center, the answer is clearly yes.
DCIM has become a fundamental aspect of data center utilization, and if your organization isn’t maximizing DCIM offerings, you’re likely missing out on significant cost savings and efficiencies.
While diving into individual solutions can feel like opening Pandora’s Box, there are many all-in-one solutions currently available, with more being developed daily.
Ready-made, proven DCIM solutions can take the stress out of choosing and bring immediate relief and benefit to your business today.