What Tools Are Necessary for Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM)?

I read a couple of interesting blogs by Kevin Brown that are available here and here. In sum, Kevin wonders what tools are required to manage modern data centers. There are many hardware and software tools available, some very specific and others general. He chose a spork as an example tool for comparison to see if we could happily use a sporklike tool as one of our data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools.

Before I started covering the intersection of ICT and energy, I was a diehard IT guy. My specialty was software engineering (do you know what that is?), which is a discipline for making software development a science rather than an art. In my humble opinion, this discipline can make the average Joe a reasonably good software engineer, but it cannot make him a master. The merits of software engineering aside, there is something called the software development environment or integrated software development tools, or some variation of that. When we develop software, we go through requirements, specifications, high-level design, low-level design, coding, testing, and maintenance. For each stage, we need a software tool. A simple example is Unix (no, not Linux; it was Unix in those days). Simple utilities came with the Unix operating system, such things as ed, sort, head, and cat. Those tools were well integrated with their environment (the Unix platform), and they worked in harmony.

As software became larger and more complex, more sophisticated software tools started to emerge. At the beginning, it was fine to have a single tool for each task, such as designing, coding, and testing. But people got more sophisticated and realized that software development could be done more effectively using a comprehensive set of tools that share the same environment.

Power and Cooling Capacity Management for Data Centers

I am not sure if the software development tools analogy can be used for DCIM tools. If it can, DCIM is going through the same cycle. Early DCIM tools were not integrated with others but independent of each other. They included monitoring (temperature, pressure, humidity, and power consumption), alarming, aggregation (both IT and facilities data), analysis, and display. More functions are added constantly. Kevin identified five functions in his second blog.

“So that makes five for DCIM: Inventory, Change, Capacity, Simulation, and Efficiency Modeling.”

I agree with his assessment. I am setting up a panel session for a conference next year to talk about the users’ perspective, not the analysts’ or vendors’, on what they need. Because the subject is so big, I will not be able to cover the entire subject. I will start with what a data center operator needs to run his own data center. What problems keep him awake at night? I would like to assemble a few data center operators that have adopted some DCIM tools, and hear from their actual experience with them. This might give us some clues to which tools are still necessary and how those tools should interact with each other. When I interviewed Modius, a DCIM vendor, their approach was similar to the integrated software development environment. I think that may be one way to tackle the issue. (I want to make it clear that I have no business or financial ties to Modius. I simply use that company as an example.)

Those who are interested in their architecture can see my blog on them.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.
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