The data center has traditionally been viewed as a cost center, not a producer of business value. The rationale behind supporting the data center has been simple: it's the only vehicle for storing and distributing business-critical data. Now, an emerging breed of software, data center infrastructure management (DCIM), is turning that rationale on its head.
The new rationale goes something like this: data centers can make a significant impact to the bottom-line by enabling businesses to respond more quickly to market demands. DCIM tools, available as integrated systems or modules, provide some or all of the following capabilities: planning, forecasting, and management for real-time decision-making. These tools can simplify operational processes, cut costs, and speed up information delivery.
Managing today's IT infrastructure poses serious challenges such as limitations of space and power, constrained budgets, and, chiefly, the tremendous complexity of keeping on top of everything -- challenges that fueled the creation of DCIM. Curiously, many data center managers still try to manage their dynamic and complex environments with little more than spreadsheets and a few CAD diagrams.
"The data center has changed greatly over the years due to new technologies, greater internet and social media traffic, and a deeper focus on data and infrastructure management," said Scott Barbour, business leader, Emerson Network Power.
When internet users search the Web, buy products online and communicate through social media, data centers make it happen, Barbour added. With so much activity and reliance on the internet, having a dependable data center infrastructure is more important than ever.
DCIM market taking off
The DCIM software market generated $245M in revenue in 2010, and will grow at a 39 percent CAGR to reach $1.3B in aggregate revenue in 2015, according to recent research from 451 Research, a division of the 451 Group.
The main force driving the growth of DCIM is companies' desire to cut their energy bills, said Andy Lawrence, 451's research director for datacenter technologies. "As well, companies are seeking improved availability, and better manageability and flexibility," he added.
One of the more interesting DCIM offerings is nlyte 6.2, released at the end of 2011. The product allows enterprises to auto-allocate hundreds of assets, easily create "what-if" models for any number and size of data center projects, and automatically convert those models into project plans. In addition, the product enables IT to predict the impact those projects will have on the availability of power, space, cooling and connectivity.
nlyte 6.2 supports moves for hundreds of assets tracked through Gantt charts to an on-time project completion.
"Using predictive intelligence and analytics to automatically create actionable outputs is extremely useful to operators who need to make moves, adds and changes in the data center," said Lawrence.
However, DCIM is neither easy to adopt or use. To simplify matters, nlyte offers nlyte Express Edition, an entry-level solution that the company claims makes it easy for companies to get started quickly with DCIM.
Express Edition helps enable companies to affordably scale the DCIM ladder, while leveraging features that maximize their use of power, cooling and space, said Jon Temple, nlyte's CEO.
A monthly subscription for nlyte Express starts at around $1,000.
Also at the end of last year, Emerson introduced the Avocent Universal Management Gateway, an appliance that enables real-time, integrated monitoring, access and control across IT and facilities systems in the data center.
The appliance is part of the vendor's Trellis platform and serves as the real-time data processing hardware link between the management software and the IT and facilities systems in the data center. Emerson claims that Trellis is the first solution for embedded service processor management across multiple heterogeneous server environments.
"More and more organizations are seeking to eliminate the inefficiencies created when IT and facilities systems are managed separately," said Gartner analyst David Cappuccio.
DCIM solutions that integrate IT and facilities systems into a single management platform will be essential to optimizing the performance of the data center in the future, Cappuccio added.
Schneider Electric, another major DCIM provider, recently acquired Viridity's EnergyCenter 2.0 platform, aiming to provide data center managers complete visibility over IT and facility operations, especially when it comes to power management and green technology.
Viridity's software is designed to track server utilization, gather data and monitor IT assets for all mission-critical physical systems of the data center, according to Schneider Electric. Schneider expects its investment in EnergyCenter 2.0 will enhance the company's existing data center management suite, StruxureWare, by adding functionality to track energy use more closely and manage resource more efficiently.
Herman Mehling has been writing about technology for more than 25 years, and has written hundreds of articles for leading technology publications and websites. He was an editor and reporter at Computer Reseller News, and a pr executive at a number of pr agencies in the San Francisco area. Mehling has edited three books, including "How To Select A Vendor For Web Development" (written by Salim Lakhani), and has written numerous articles, press releases, and white papers for corporations. Currently, he contributes regularly to: http://www.devx.com, http://www.ecrmguide.com and http://www.esecurityplanet.com. Before working in technology, Mehling was the editor of a grocery trade magazine in Dublin, Ireland, and a reporter for a Dublin weekly newspaper. He currently resides outside of Paris.