WP#79 - Data Center Automation with a DCIM System

03 January, 2019 | White Paper

Marina Thiry, ABB
Jay Vincent, Intel
Eric Olson, ABB
Munther Salim, HPE
Mark Seymour, Future Facilities
Sean Nicholson, Vertiv

Gerardo Alfonso, Individual member
James Alvers, HPE
James Bartone, Schneider Electric
Cliff Federspiel, Individual member
James Fukuda, Cisco Systems
Illamaran Gunaratnam, Equinix
Ken Jackson, HPE
Veerendra Para, IBM

Data centers are complex systems that support a wide range of deployments, including enterprises, colocations, cloud, hyperscale, telecommunication companies (telcos), and others. While data centers are conceptually similar to the computers they house, they are vastly more multifaceted. This is not just because of their sheer size and the number of computer systems they contain but also because they are constantly changing. Changes occur in various areas, including the applications, the IT equipment that serves the applications, the data-center infrastructure that serves the IT equipment, and the climate outside the data center.

Traditionally, these disparate areas have been addressed through independent control systems and manual procedures that have been largely reactive. A reactive solution is likely to result in a data center’s underperformance since changes to installed hardware and applications often cannot be made once the systems are up and running. Traditional responses, therefore, have treated the symptom rather than the cause.

The importance of the data center to all aspects of modern business and life requires a more holistic and unified approach to management, automating processes and controls to proactively deliver a more efficient and reliable data center.  The size of this challenge has resulted in some confusion as to what kind of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) system to choose as well as when, why, and how to implement such a system.

To address this confusion, this document provides the following:

  • An overview of what a DCIM system is, its benefits, and the value of automation
  • Business considerations that will drive decisions
  • Information for data-center personnel to better understand DCIM
  • The automation capabilities that exist today and the benefits of using them

Because people have various interpretations of what DCIM and automation mean, the paper provides an explanation of both, establishing a new DCIM functional model that incorporates the automation functions as they relate to the physical environment of the data center.

An important message is that DCIM can be deployed in stages addressing the most immediate business needs first. By automating key aspects initially, it’s possible to avoid being overwhelmed by all the capabilities of DCIM, which, if addressed at once, could make the task unattractive or, indeed, too big to succeed.

The document makes four key points:

  • There is no one-size-fits-all DCIM solution. DCIM can be deployed in stages, addressing the most immediate business needs first.
  • Automation comes in many forms, varying with the equipment types, business objectives, and maturity of the data center.
  • Automation with DCIM improves reliability and energy efficiency, optimizes use of space, and maximizes use of IT equipment.
  • A DCIM framework enables many if not all DCIM and automation functions to be brought together, resulting in a benefit that is greater than the sum of its parts.