Definition

data center infrastructure management (DCIM)

What is data center infrastructure management?

Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is the convergence of IT and building facilities functions within an organization. The goal of a DCIM initiative is to provide administrators with a holistic view of a data center's performance so that energy, equipment and floor space are used as efficiently as possible.

DCIM software is used to measure, monitor and manage the IT equipment and supporting infrastructure of data centers. This enables data center operators to run efficient operations while improving infrastructure design planning. DCIM software can be hosted on premises or in the cloud.

Data center infrastructure management tools can help administrators locate and identify relationships between a building and its IT systems. For example, energy-monitoring sensors and supporting hardware can be installed to measure and manage the energy consumption of IT equipment and infrastructure components such as power distribution units (PDUs). The same system can then analyze power usage effectiveness (PUE) and cooling system energy efficiency.

What are the benefits of DCIM?

Benefits of DCIM include the following:

  • Increased uptime. Monitoring equipment and constructing reports on gathered data help an organization determine its data center health and if any equipment needs to be replaced.
  • Capacity management. Features found in DCIM software help organizations model and allocate space for new hardware and equipment and manage their power chain.
  • Proactive incident management. Real-time management features give facility managers insight into the state of their data centers now and into the future.
  • Energy management. DCIM enables organization to measure their energy consumption for all IT-related equipment. This insight helps them to reduce energy usage and costs.
  • Improved productivity. DCIM enables IT departments to monitor across multiple locations remotely. This is extremely beneficial for edge data centers where automated alerts can help IT track physical and logical components and warn of component failures.

What are the challenges of DCIM?

DCIM also has the following disadvantages:

  • Security. DCIM connects multiple critical systems together, increasing the number of potential points of entry.
  • Environmental monitoring. Servers and other IT equipment found in racks should be carefully monitored with temperature sensors to ensure no equipment overheats. Depending on the environment, this could be expensive.
  • Facility systems. Older data centers might not be up to date on their equipment or lack a system, possibly negatively affecting DCIM. For example, a data center might not have real-time utility energy metering and may have to base total energy usage on its utility bill, which could end up costing them more in power consumption. Likewise, the lack of temperature sensors in older equipment may mean the organization has to invest in newer equipment.

What are the components of DCIM?

The components of DCIM surround the architecture and support IT functions and infrastructure. These components include the following:

  • Physical architecture. This includes floor space consideration for hardware components like servers, network switches, airflow, cooling systems and PDUs.
  • Materials catalog. DCIM technologies contain libraries of material lists. For example, these could include basic specifications, servers, storage and networking equipment or PDUs. These libraries are updated and maintained regularly by the vendors.
  • Capacity planning. Planning for future capacity includes estimating of space, computer hardware, software and connection infrastructure resources. DCIM software can construct models for future scenarios based on specified limitations.
  • Change management. DCIM must take hardware replacement into account to avoid risks like downtime or malfunctions. DCIM must also take process changes into account and can be used to maintain an audit trail of requests and work orders.
  • Software integration. DCIM software may also be able to integrate with existing management software to better track automated and integrated data center workflows.
  • Data analysis. DCIM software also collects real-time data, such as hardware metrics, which helps to mitigate outages or other incidents.
DCIM components
DCIM components support an organization's IT functions and infrastructure.

How to get started with DCIM

A sound strategy is for an organization to implement DCIM in phases where it starts with the bare minimum and upgrades functionality in small steps. Implementing DCIM this way keeps the process of migrating less complex. For example, an organization can move from creating spreadsheets to implementing automated data center asset management software. From there, it can work on adopting other DCIM aspects such as capacity, power and environment.

Organizations should look for DCIM software that fits their physical architecture and needs for monitoring, change management, scaling and capacity planning, material cataloging and data visualizations. Data visualizations are the way data center information is presented, such as in a dashboard, trend charts, reports, rack and row elevations and floor layout plans.

Learn more about how to successfully implement DCIM, including implementation procedures and using the DCIM tool regularly to help avoid disasters.

This was last updated in April 2022

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