Yes, DCIM Systems ARE like ERP Systems, Critical for Both Cost and Risk Management
Technology and manufacturing companies nearly all use sophisticated ERP systems for oversight on the myriad functions that contribute to a company’s operation. Service companies use SAP.
Data center managers more typically use their own experience. With all due respect to this experience, the complexity of today’s data center has long surpassed the ability of any human or even group of humans, to manage it for maximum safety and efficiency.
As data centers have come to acknowledge this fact, they are increasingly adopting DCIM, the data center’s answer to ERP. The similarities between ERP systems and DCIM are striking.
Just as manufacturing and technology firms needed a system to manage the complexity of operations, data center operations have grown and matured to the state that such systems are now required as well.
Data Center Knowledge’s Jason Verge says that “… [DCIM] is being touted as the ERP for the data center; it is addressing a complicated challenge. When a device is introduced changes or fails, it changes the make-up of these complex facilities.”
Mark Harris of Nlyte said in a related Data Center Journal article: “DCIM was envisioned to become the ERP for IT. It was to become the enabler for the IT organization to extend and manage their span of control, much like all other organizations (Sales, Engineering, manufacturing, Finance, etc.) had adopted over the years.”
Just like ERP systems, DCIM attempts to de-silo and shed light, along with management control, on cost and waste, while also addressing risk concerns. In initial DCIM deployments the focus has understandably been on asset management. Understanding the equipment you have and if this equipment is appropriate for your challenges was the right place to start. However, DCIM vendors and users quickly realized that elimination of energy waste, particularly energy wasted by unused IT assets, was another useful area of focus. Cooling as a resource or even area of waste, was a tertiary concern. Business managers no longer have this luxury. The cost of cooling and the risk of a cooling/heating-related data center failure is too high. As Michelle Bailey, VP of 451 Datacenter Initiatives and Digital Infrastructure said in a recent webinar on Next Generation Data Centers, Data centers have become too big to fail. She also said that data centers are still using imprecise measurements of accountability – which don’t match up to business goals. Processes must be made more transparent to business managers, and that metrics must be established and tie directly back to business goals.
Data center managers can and do make extremely expensive energy-related decisions from a cost perspective in order to reduce risk. These may not even be bad decisions. But the issue is that, without site visibility and the transparency that Michelle suggests above, business managers don’t realize that these decisions are being made at all, or that there may be options available which, with more analysis, make more sense from a business cost and risk trade-off perspective. And, while cost is one driver of the need for management oversight, waste (and its obvious effect on cost), is another.
As an example, a facility manager may turn his chiller plant down a degree to manage his cost function and perception of risk control. This action has the cost equivalent of expensing a Tesla, but likely has no visibility to management. Nor, typically, does the facility manager realize that he has less expensive and even less risky alternatives, because he/she has never had to consider them. Facility managers are not traditionally accountable to energy savings. They are accountable to uptime. This thinking is outdated. The two are no longer mutually exclusive. In fact they are inextricably tied. Proactive and intelligently managed energy saves money and reduces downtime risk by reducing the possibility of cooling failures. If DCIM, like an ERP system, is used to understand and manage where cost – and waste- is being generated, it must specifically address and incorporate cooling infrastructure.
DCIM systems, offering granular data center information, aggregated and analyzed for business case analysis enables such oversight and with this, improved operational management.