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The DCIM advantage

What is data centre infrastructure management all about?

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management, Data center, DCIM

What is data center infrastructure management all about? Syska Hennessy Group - MENA’s Greg Jasmin, co-managing director, and Robert Saunders, FM & commissioning lead, explain DCIM

Data center owners and operators are always looking for new ways to enhance daily operational efficiencies, and Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is the newest tool on the market. But, what is DCIM? What are its benefits?

While stand-alone infrastructure like a Building Automation System (BAS), Electrical Power Monitoring System (EPMS), IT network management and a building’s security system are all needed to monitor and control individual equipment at the local level, DCIM is the umbrella that can integrate all the local, independent systems into one dashboard providing a holistic view of the data center.

This ability to oversee the infrastructure and equipment integration aids in forecasting and trending, helping data center management to make informed decisions both on a daily basis and when capital investments arise.

DCIM can help answer questions like: How is the electrical system impacted if additional IT equipment is added or how much space is actually on the data center (DC) white floor? How much UPS and cooling capacity is left? What’s the network ratio? Where are my assets located in the DC?

While DCIM can provide data centers managers with a variety of useful tools, DCIM isn’t the magic bullet solution for each management challenge and may not be right for every data center. Instead, it’s important to fully understand both the prerequisites of a DCIM system and what it takes to sustain operations long term before determining if it’s appropriate for a specific facility.

DCIM solutions vary greatly in scope, price and systems architecture. Selecting the right DCIM solution is all about understanding how the DCIM solution will fit into the current operating culture.

With an increasing number of diverse products on the market right now, successful DCIM implementation requires a structured system selection and implementation process. Because there is no one size fits all data center, similarly an out-of-the-box DCIM package may not be the right solution either.

More typically, a DCIM solution will be selected by a qualified, third party DCIM consulting engineer that is knowledgeable in both critical facilities and information and communication technologies (ICT) integration.

The DCIM engineer will identify and determine the proper reporting of each sub-system and its unique needs, keeping in mind the specific overall management goals of the facility. With a greater understanding of all the DCIM products on the market, partnering long term with the same DCIM consulting engineer will ensure successful operations.

There are two types of data center sites that can benefit from a DCIM system: an existing site that already has a robust base infrastructure consisting of all the necessary local metering and monitoring points and a new facility designed and equipped with metering and monitoring points.

Existing sites whose metering and monitoring points need to be renovated to collect the right data are not candidates for immediate DCIM installation. Instead, all base infrastructure must be functioning optimally first before a data center can consider a DCIM system.

For new facilities, data center owners should select a DCIM solution at the design phase as this will have an impact on other equipment specified and power metering design.

It’s also worth noting that having a fully functional DCIM solution prior to the data center being handed over to operations also mitigates the expense and risks involved in retrofitting.

Once it’s been established that the data center has the base infrastructure required for DCIM installation, the next step is a meeting or workshop between the data center’s owner and operator and the consulting engineer.

During this workshop, the consulting engineer and the management will identify current operational issues, set concrete goals for the DCIM system and identify the business units to use the information or DCIM solution.

What are the management’s expectations? Which data should be captured and analysed and at what granular level? After identifying specific analysis goals for each subsystem, including cooling, power and white space management, the consulting engineer will select the most appropriate DCIM solution based on different vendor’s offerings and develop a roadmap for implementation.

Once the DCIM system has been specified by the consulting engineer, it’s critical that the DCIM vendor has a local presence themselves or has a certified partner or installer, so that if conflicts arise with the system down the road, they can be called to attend the site to help as necessary. If the vendor does not have local presence, the solution may not be viable.

Next, the consulting engineer will manage the DCIM implementation to ensure a successful deployment by setting predefined deliverables, realistic expectations and goals and actively contributing to the process at each of the project’s milestones.

Finally, training the data center’s management on how to use the system will be key to realizing a real return on investment (ROI). Typically, the DCIM vendor provides basic equipment training. But, beyond this initial training, it is ideal to provide DCIM operators with training specific to the individual systems architecture.

This should be facilitated by the consulting engineer who selected and has managed the DCIM implementation so far and who will continue to be a local resource for the DCIM operators long term.

Additionally, the data center may want to designate one employee as a DCIM implementation head, so that even after the equipment vendor and consulting engineer have left the building, there’s always an internal point person that can be contacted for questions and system changes should they arise.

Once the DCIM system is up and running, it will provide a number of services, including: operations and resource management, asset tracking and connectivity management, workflows and change management, predictive capacity planning, 2D or 3D white space layouts, real time monitoring, analytics and reporting.

Other especially useful services include asset and white space management, cable and port management and optimisation of the energy use of IT systems.

With asset and white space management, large facilities, co-location data centers or those with complex operations and equipment will appreciate the ability to manage assets and white space provided by the DCIM.

From locating each server by cabinet, to finding out what data is stored in it, to where it landed when it was recently moved - it is all possible through DCIM.

Managing white space will be particularly helpful to a large or co-location facility for determining how much is left, if the data center can handle another client, at what rate is the data center growing and how much power is left. This type of data can both manage and promote data center growth, while also providing the management with data to back up upgrade requests.

Similar to white space management, the cable and port management feature will allow the data center management to see how many ports they have in real time and which are available. This feature will allow the operator to locate each cable and which pieces of equipment it’s connecting.

With regard to the optimisation tool for the energy use of IT systems, it would help management understand how well the data center’s sub-systems are using power and managing energy efficiencies, including reporting power usage effectiveness and data center infrastructure efficiency as well.

This will specifically help to manage energy costs data center wide, providing the ability to track and charge energy back to different groups or departments within the same facility. This feature helps the management drive efficiency more than any others and can be especially significant to the co-lo data center.

Over the last few years, DCIM has grown to be the most sought-after tool for data center management. Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2016, two-thirds of mature DC markets will use DCIM tools. This is no doubt because the DCIM system provides both a global view of the facility and a single interface monitoring the entire DC portfolio.

While it may not solve every management issue, the DCIM system will help data center management get the most out of the existing equipment infrastructure.

With the ability to make changes based on analysis and reports produced by the DCIM and then run another report after the change has been made to pinpoint the real time improvement, the system’s ROI should be apparent within the first year of implementation.

How to get a data center ready for DCIM
Even if it’s not possible to implement DCIM right now, you may want to down the road. Start by taking the small steps now to get the DC’s base monitoring and metering infrastructure DCIM-ready.

Here are some tips:
- Make sure the data center’s BAS system is up to date and works efficiently as well.
- Identify the existing systems to be integrated with the DCIM and validate the communication protocol.
- Determine and implement metering/monitoring points that align with the data center’s specific goals. For example, if management would eventually like to run a report that reveals how much power is at the rack level, then set points to capture that type of data.

Syska Hennessy Group
Syska Hennessy Group, Inc. is a global leader in consulting, engineering and commissioning. The firm, which has offices in the US, China and the UAE, has helped engineer some of the world’s most innovative, technically sophisticated, and energy efficient buildings.

Syska Hennessy Group’s clients include leading corporations, fast-growing and high-tech companies, educational institutions, architectural and interior designers and commercial developers, as well as state, local and federal government agencies.

Syska’s eight-Step DCIM Selection Approach
1- Workshop to develop the requirements for DCIM.
2- Evaluate the DCIM market and vendor offerings.
3- Solicit quotes for offerings that meet the requirements and goals of the DC.
4- Compare features/functions versus cost and select solution.
5- Manage DCIM implementation.
6- Configure DCIM.
7- Training and go-live.
8- Periodic system audits.

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