DCIM solution providers are doing amazing things today. When I look at the software available from the top dozen DCIM players, I see an amazing set of capabilities being delivered now that customers today me 5 years ago would make them happy. Their stated needs really are being addressed, DCIM software products are being delivered. Nice work guys (collectively)!
After a few high-fives internally and even some high-profile customer wins, let me remind everyone in the DCIM space that the key to long-term DCIM industry success is really going to a BALANCE of EXTREME DISCIPLINE regarding operational workflows (the EASY part), and the deployment of a set of physical placement audit technologies (the HARD part) that MAY not even exist yet!
The first part is relatively easy (in my opinion). A set of strong CIO/IT Director leaders can make discipline happen. They can require best practices and tradition approaches to be modified to include DCIM tasks or “modern lifecycle management”. They CAN do this. They COULD set these practices. That said, many do NOT do so today. DCIM is so new, that many CIO/IT Directors are still somewhat confused about the STRATEGIC value of DCIM for their company. Still feels like a ‘nice to have’. Most lifecycle management initiatives only manage a portion of the asset, over a portio of it’s life. This will change over time, and as the strategic value is demonstrated and confirmed, the ability for DCIM solutions to succeed is greater. Like I said, this is the easier part because all it takes is a DESIRE (and a few MANDATES) to do things a bit differently.
Now the HARD part: Physical asset location. Let me start by saying there is NO ANALOGOUS from the logical world to asset placement. In the logical world, if a customer wishes to manage their data center today, they can get software management suites from any of the major players (IBM, CA, BMC, etc), install the packages, and push the ‘start’ button. Within a short period of time, those softwares autodiscover nearly everything, each device, what’s connected to what, etc. and are then happy to keep track of it all. Logical asset discovery is SOOOO simple today. The problem is most IT professionals instinctively assume there must be a similiar approach for PHYSICAL location. Wrong! Dead wrong. The concept of autodiscovery simply DOES NOT exist today. The mechanical underpinnings are not there. Sure there are several very interesting products that do some nice device discovery beginning to arrive from various vendors, but all of the current crop of solutions require a fairly significant investment in retro-fit hardware and are not built-into the core mechanics of racks or rack devices. (Similiarly, I could add a refrigerator to the trunk of my BMW 335i sedan, but that would have a similar set of ‘retro-fit’ details not interesting to the faint of heart).
Will this Hard part be solved? Me thinks not… Not in the foreseeable future anyway. A physical standard could be proposed, but that would be years away even if it started today. Too many competing ‘ideas’, some say DCIM and placement needs are too new, so ultimately the industry is NOT currently converging on a mechanical standard way of locating rack-installed devices and identifying them uniquely in a rack.
So what do you do as a data center operator wishing to take a step in the DCIM world? Reset your expectations. Remember above I mentioned the balance between Discipline and Location technologies? Well, perhaps today is a good time to focus on Discipline! The CIO/IT Directors must warm up to the strategic importance of Discipline in the data center. The PAPERWORK really is the key to long-term success. Any asset should have a complete ‘papertrail’ that identifies it from the moment it arrives on the shipping dock to the time when it is decommissioned and removed. Everything, who owns it, where it is used, what function it is running, versions of software installed, where installed, power usage, temperatures, etc. All assets in an easy to browse data base (for lack of a better term). It is this DESIRE to have an enterprise-wide central asset management data base that will make DCIM successful. CIO/IT Director leadership is all important in successful DCIM today.