DCIM Tools are the Proactive Operating Systems of Data Center Infrastructure

DCIM Tools are the Proactive Operating Systems of Data Center Infrastructure
by Dr. Raju Pandey, SynapSense Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer
Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) systems have received significant interest from the data center community as there is broad agreement across the industry on the need for such a tool. What is missing, however, is agreement on the scope and features of this tool.
Gartner defines DCIM as “Integration of IT & facility management disciplines to centralize monitoring, management and intelligent capacity planning of a data center’s critical systems.” Gartner goes on to suggest that DCIM will…“Enable a common, real-time monitoring and management platform for all interdependent systems across IT and facility infrastructures.” Several other white papers and articles have proposed DCIM primarily as management of critical facility assets and resources. Most of these definitions present a rather static view of DCIM in which DCIM tools passively collect data and allow a data center manager to monitor and manage these assets and resources.
We view a DCIM tool as an active entity or a proactive system that is similar to a traditional operating system in several ways: First, it provides an abstraction of assets, infrastructure, hardware components, and resources. For instance, such a DCIM tool abstracts away the need to interact with cooling units (such as CRAH) directly. It provides tools to manage cooling units resources, enable the ability to add/remove cooling units easily, and provide transparent recovery from cooling unit failures. Second, a DCIM tool, as Gartner correctly states, measures resource usage in real-time, accounting for how and where these resources are used. Measurement is key to managing and optimizing the infrastructure. Third, it automatically schedules and provisions resources. For instance, just as traditional operating systems schedule and provision CPUs, DCIM tools allocate cooling resources based on available cooling capacity and the load. Similar scheduling and provisioning mechanisms apply to other resources (such as power and virtual machines). Fourth, a DCIM tool optimizes resource usage. The resource scheduling policy should ensure that IT and facility resources are optimally aligned to meet requirements. Finally, a DCIM tool provides a set of well-defined interfaces that the IT application management layers use to acquire, use and relinquish resources.
A DCIM tool, thus, is a proactive system that constantly measures the resources being used in the data center, analyzes the resource usage to determine its effectiveness in the data center, and then adapts the resource usage to match resource needs in real-time, enabling both resource management and optimization. Only such a tool will truly be capable of managing both existing assets and resources, support future changes and deliver the return on investment that the industry is expecting from DCIM solutions.