Those who do not follow my blog may be confused without some background. Teladata is a consulting firm focusing on data center technologies. They saw a huge gap between IT and facilities that is making data center operation less efficient. That is well illustrated in my previous blog.
I had the opportunity to moderate a panel session at this conference to investigate the current status of data center infrastructure management (DCIM). For details of this session, see here.
These were the panelists:
- Chuck Rego, Chief Architect, High Density Data Centers at Intel Corporation
- Pam Brigham, Director, Global Technology at Equinix
- Phil Reese, Research Computing Strategist at Stanford University
This blog is a summary of that session. (It is almost impossible to moderate a panel and take notes at the same time.) There are many ways you can structure a panel discussion. One extreme is for the moderator and panelists to share a common scenario, even down to the details of Q&A. Of course, the other extreme is to set a big theme and a direction for the discussion, and let the conversation take its own course.
|Data Center Projects: System Planning|
I took the second approach, mainly because the panelists’ three data centers were drastically different, making it extremely difficult to ask each person the same question. On one end of the spectrum, Phil Reese has data centers for researchers at Stanford University and is starting to use a commercially available DCIM tool. On the other end, Pam Brigham’s company, Equinix, is in the colocation business worldwide, and she uses homegrown tools. Chuck Rego produces a set of DCIM tools at Intel and uses other commercially available tools.
Technical difficulties prevented my monologue slides from being included in the presentation. But I said the following in them:
- DCIM tools are software and hardware tools used to design and operate data centers effectively. This definition may qualify almost any tool as a DCIM tool.
- In general, a tool has only one function.
- DCIM tools came out of the different needs and categories of data center operations. Therefore, there is no standard for sharing data and no common communications protocol.
- Very little information about use is available.
There were no clear disagreements about this explanation. However, Chuck was a little skeptical about any tool being a DCIM one. I am not 100% sure, but I think I heard that energy management tools were not DCIM tools. I take a very liberal stance on the definition of DCIM. If we take the meaning of DCIM literally, any DCIM tool should directly touch the infrastructure. Energy management tools may not deal with the infrastructure directly but they do indirectly. If we draw a line to define what is a DCIM tool and what is not, it would be too cumbersome. I suggest putting everything into this category.
There were a few more topics discussed, although I am sure I forgot others:
- Homegrown tools were developed when no tools were commercially available.
- A dashboard display that integrates several tools’ results would be desirable.
- Some kind of standards are necessary.
As for item #1, both Pam and Chuck said why they developed their own. Pam needed to provide some kind of automated way to let sales guys know what colocation space is available at which data center, with some detailed specifications. One such tool is web based and provides information instantly. When there is no tool commercially available, you need to develop your own. Pam said she had been looking into commercially available tools, but none of them satisfies her needs yet. A tool needs to be flexible and customizable because no two data centers are alike. A tool without any flexibility may apply to one data center but not to another, even though you own them both.
Chuck’s case is interesting. He developed several tools as a suite to meet his needs but ended up making them commercially available. So Intel eats its own dog food.
I think both Phil and Chuck brought up item #2. Phil is using SynapSense to monitor his data center. He also has some CFD tools. Down the line, he will need more tools. It would be very desirable if these tools were integrated with one display window, rather than multiple windows, to make it easier to grasp what’s happening at your data center.
Item #2 brings up item #3. To integrate tools together, we need a common platform for sharing data and a communications mechanism. But because each tool was developed to perform one function and one function only, this need was not taken into consideration. However, there is some movement in this direction. Future Facilities now teams up with other companies, including Intel, to integrate their tools together.
In summary, the DCIM segment is in its infancy. Its definition is not even agreed upon. There is going to be debate over whether a tool belongs to DCIM. That would confuse the market, but it is a process we need to go through to mature this segment. But one thing is clear. Someone with a lot of weight behind him should take the initiative to set the standards in this segment. Chuck, how about you?