A Primer on DCIM Software

By |January 31st, 2018|

What You Need to Know About Data Center Infrastructure Management

CIOs who have their ear to the ground know that the right DCIM software can become a powerful tool for today’s data centers. There’s little doubt that these increasingly complex enterprises face huge challenges in maintaining and improving key deliverables to clients. Pressures from outside and from within are forcing data centers to become more efficient in space and power consumption, in profitability, and in ensuring security in the face of cyber threats.

Situational Awareness to Fully Exploit Resources

The right DCIM can provide the situational awareness data centers need to run efficiently, to inventory and employ facilities, hardware, tools, software, and personnel in the most effective manner. No longer do centers have to be saddled with under-utilized hardware (or zombie servers) and software resources. DCIM can provide the much-needed metrics for budgeting, service planning, and compliance audits. With increased situational awareness comes the agility to move with fluctuating business climates, a critically important factor in enhancing availability, reliability, overall quality and serviceability.

But many data centers increasingly find themselves in quicksand when it comes to updating their management systems, tools, and best practices. For whatever reason, they’re simply unable to plan, economically run or perform much-needed data analyses to improve workflow.

Situational awareness allows CIOs to clearly identify their resources and the way they’re configured and employed. It reveals a data center’s availability (and vulnerability) when it comes to performance, capacity and cost-effectiveness in providing reliable service.

Michael L. Ross, a data center management consultant who has over 10 years helping large data centers reduce their total cost of ownership underscores the importance of management tools like Tuangru’s RAMP DCIM in providing situational awareness.

“Ten years ago, data centers were focused on availability and performance. Today, data centers need to understand the total cost of ownership and its elements to deliver a service. You need to manage the cost of the data center plus the infrastructure supporting it as well as maintain high operating efficiencies,” he said.

Preventive Maintenance for Maximum Uptime

One would think that with the current climate of disasters and computer hacking, and the exorbitant costs of downtime, data center CIOs would do everything they can to keep their facilities properly maintained.  Yet many centers fall victim to these unforeseen tragic events. The right DCIM software can be “the canary in the coal mine” to manage maintenance and avoid downtime disasters.

Choosing the proper DCIM software can help set facility markers like PDUs (Power Distribution Units) into maintenance mode or notify if a device is out of service or has been physically de-commissioned. Data center software can still access historical data for analytics and reports but remain clear of events that lead to false positives. The right software can also efficiently deal with change management using workflow validation and an audit trail to ensure compliance. CIOs can breathe a sigh of relief because changes and key updates are available in real time. No more missed updates.

Root Cause Analysis to Resolve Issues Quickly

Data center managers are often confronted with an avalanche of data. But severing a router from the network could result in hundreds of “link lost” alarms for devices located downstream. Identifying the root cause in the din of these serially compounding events can pose a challenge. The right DCIM software can prove invaluable to CIOs, making them aware of device-to-device relationships and draw their attention to the device or router that’s disrupting the system. Root cause analyses can resolve these issues quickly, reducing downtime.

Automation to Plan, Control, Allocate Resources

According to a DCIM Solution Deployment Survey commissioned by Intel and Schneider Electric, the problem of manual, time-intensive tasks drove more than half of data center managers to seek DCIM software to automate their enterprise.

Augmenting DCIM tools are Automated Infrastructure Management (AIM) systems, which bring much-needed connectivity data to DCIM. Employing smart cables and patch panels, these systems provide a clear, real-time view of the current state of a data center’s physical network, including which cables are connected to which ports.

Data center managers are constantly under pressure to maintain uptime and quickly deploy data center services. What they need is an automation tool to more measure capacity and forecast demand, curb costs, and maintain a high level of data center performance. The right DCIM tools can serve to optimize data center automation. They can dovetail industrial control systems and predictive analytics to ensure optimal use of networked assets.

Ross notes that Tuangru’s RAMP DCIM can be a vital asset in implementing automation solutions. “Automation has taken on a new meaning,” he said. “No longer are you looking to implement a ‘lights out’ strategy where the IT components balance the load and prevent outages with little to no human interaction.  Today’s data center needs  to automate and integrate space/power/cooling industrial building systems for a total automated environment.”

With the latest DCIM and AIM solutions, data center managers get a top-down view of their center’s infrastructure, one that’s both current and easy to understand. Uniting these powerful two tools finally gives managers the information they need to effectively plan, control and allocate resources.

Network Security & Intrusion Detection

Recently, both the size and frequency of cyber-attacks have seen a sharp increase. Concerned data center managers have a right to ask if DCIM software is vulnerable. Experts agree that both online and offline software can fall victim to cyber-attacks.

Based on how far a DCIM solution is “corkscrewed” into a data center, a cyber-attack can significantly impact one’s infrastructure—even to the point of collapse.

Typically, DCIMs are often observers only, meaning that a DCIM system can query a CRAC device for fan speed, but cannot for example turn off that fan, a function more suitable for a BMS system.  However, DCIMs do offer an inventory of critical infrastructure devices that can be targets for attacks.  Securing a DCIM is therefore essential to securing these critical devices.

Khaled Assali, director of product management at Tuangru, reveals the importance of the right DCIM in maintaining a data center’s security. “Securing a data center requires hardening against external and internal actors. A good DCIM solution can be instrumental in guarding against these threats by providing detailed change logs on all the devices it monitors.”