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DCIM makes itself at home in the channel

More data center VARs are building data center infrastructure management practices to eliminate guesswork linked to administrative tasks.

More companies want to eliminate guesswork associated with managing power, cooling, space and other data center dynamics with emerging data center infrastructure management applications. 

Solution providers say DCIM is being embraced by companies faced with handling a data center migration or consolidation project, as well as by those integrating assets of two companies in a merger or acquisition.

“Most clients make decisions based on the cost to build a new data center or to collocate,” said Nathan Weiss, director of sales and solutions for IDMWorks Inc., a nationwide solution provider. “What they don’t focus on is how to plan this migration and what information needs to be documented and managed. There is lots of tribal knowledge in this space right now.”

IDMWorks uses several best-of-breed DCIM tools to drive its services, including software from nlyte Software Ltd., Weiss said. The market includes a diverse set of technology players seeking closer ties to the channel. They include familiar names from the power distribution equipment world such as APC by Schneider Electric; pure-play data center performance software developers such as nlyte, Sentilla and Viridity Software; and companies from the patch management and power management segment, such as 1E, that are extending their reach across the data center.

Out with the old, in with DCIM
Many businesses are realizing that the haphazard, in-house methods used to manage and plan such projects in the past won’t cut it in a post-recession era of heightened operational efficiency. In 2010, Gartner Inc. predicted that DCIM adoption could hit 60% penetration by 2014. That’s up from just 1% last year.

“People want to have more of an integrated feel of what’s going on in and around the data center,” said Bob Mobach, practice director, data center infrastructure for national IT services firm Logicalis, which also works with nlyte. “Some departments still have information like this on a spreadsheet. And a lot of times, that spreadsheet is outdated.”

DCIM technology helps those planning a move to gather a thorough inventory of assets, down to the rack level, Mobach said. “Generally, we get involved with a client that is looking to do a pretty in-depth consolidation or virtualization, or they are moving,” he said.

Realistically, DCIM isn’t appropriate for small companies with simple IT infrastructures. Typical prospects include midsized data centers with 200 to 500 servers or with 20 to 120 cabinets. “It has less to do with size or revenue. It really has to do with complexity,” Mobach said.

Al Nichols is president and CEO of Pinebreeze Technologies Inc., a technology solution provider that specializes in data center moves and is a long-time partner of APC.  Nichols says industry sectors with heavy risk management burdens, such as the health care and financial services sector, are especially open to DCIM solutions.

Often, DCIM prospects are managing multiple sites, including a production center, test and development site and disaster recovery site, he said.

Nichols said more companies are starting to view DCIM solutions as something more than a one-time event and are seeking ways to proactively manage availability, power and space requirements for their IT infrastructure. “When clients get this information, there are ‘aha’ moments,” he said.

Building a DCIM practice isn’t for the faint of heart, according to solution providers that have done it. From a technical standpoint, it takes training in multiple disciplines, and lots of real-world field experience. And sometimes the right experience is hard to quantify and express in a certification or badge.

“You really can’t put one acronym at the end of [someone’s] name and say they are the right person. We need to speak to all areas and, more importantly, how they relate,” Weiss said.

About the expert
Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist in the New York area with more than 20 years experience. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. Clancy was previously editor at Computer Reseller News, a B2B trade publication covering news and trends about the high-tech channel.

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