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Increasing Data Center Energy Efficiency: DCIM Is No Panacea, But You Can Make It Work

I love technology. I love data. Put the two together and you have a potent solution that enables analyzing, reporting and taking action based on a constant stream of real-time information. This information can come from a number of diverse sources, used in many different applications and industries – healthcare, manufacturing, technology and even space exploration (remember “Houston we have a problem?”).


But after reading an online Data Center Journal article by Sev Onyshkevych on the elegance of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools, I’m reminded of the perils of becoming too reliant on technology to operate and manage our data centers. This informative article on DCIM, called “The 5 Pillars of DCIM – Improving Data Center Efficiencies”, lays out a framework for a robust yet complicated assemblage of all IT and facility systems accessible from a single dashboard.  While this sounds like a sexy solution to an otherwise messy situation, care must be taken in aggregating otherwise disparate domains.  


Don’t forget - I am a card-carrying evangelist of DCIM tools and the use of data acquisition and analysis to help us move forward as an industry. I am also the first person in line to expound on the importance of assimilating the IT and facilities domain together to form a more effective and efficient uber-domain, in which we will find the greatest energy savings and operational efficacy. However, before we can reach this data center nirvana, I think we have some homework to do first:


1. People need to lead the charge. It is incumbent on the CIO and COO to set the tone and provide marching orders to move toward an integrated IT and facilities model. This will require some outside, “non-interested parties” to facilitate this process and develop a roadmap. Without third-party consultants, internal politics could spoil the process.


2. Baseline data must be acquired. A Buddhist saying comes to mind here: “If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions.” This applies to both IT and facilities. Knowing baseline performance data will set realistic expectations and help develop metrics for future benchmarking. A specific example here is measuring energy consumption in different areas in the data center and for different pieces of equipment. This will help in understanding the ROI that might come out of the investment in upgrades identified by the DCIM tools that can monitor data center energy use.


3. Examine the current IT hardware and networking plan. Any major virtualization, data center consolidation and equipment refresh ideally would occur concurrently or prior to a DCIM program. This eliminates redundancy or unnecessary work in the development of DCIM tools.


4. Performance validation. After the DCIM system is installed, thorough validation has to happen to make sure the system is monitoring and reporting correctly and that the claims made by the vendor are actually true!


Certainly these aren’t the only four steps, but they are indicative of the types of activities required to make a DCIM system a success. Ultimately the system must be user-friendly, not overly complicated, nor promise too much. This is especially critical in emergency situations where access to data cannot be slowed down by a convoluted interface and data that is buried too deep to access at a moment’s notice. These and other potential pitfalls can be avoided by developing a thoughtful, detailed roadmap containing all necessary steps for a DCIM deployment in planning, execution and on-going operations.


Learn how HP Critical Facilities Services can help you increase efficiencies in your data center.


To learn more about me and how I can help your organization rein in power consumption and curb energy costs, visit my HP Technology Experts profile.

christophe.maisonnave | ‎10-11-2013 08:51 AM

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is these days (and some of my nights as well) a hot subject for me and the team here in Asia Pacific.
I agree with the 4 steps you proposed here but also wanted to add some elements related to the risk of DCIM for people going too fast in the technology selection and implementation.
In many of the cases we did study we realized that number of time DCIM start with great expectations but run in major implementation troubles due to poor planning or low  product functionality understanding.
So to me the key recommendation is one more time to go in a "maniac" requirements and scoping activities when it come to DCIM because it is a complex domain that many vendors try to over simplify generating a fair number of white elephants in the market these days.
 Data Center Infrastructure Management is more a system integration process than just a software basic implementation. People sometime want to relate DCIM as the ERP of the Data Center it is true if you look at what was the ERP 15 years ago not what it is now.

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About the Author
Bill is the Principal Data Center Energy Technologist for HP Technology Services. Kosik is a licensed professional engineer, LEED Accredited...
About the Author(s)
  • I’m a Global Strategist, a certified (PMI) Project Manager, specializing in business to IT alignment, agility consulting, Infrastructure Transformation and Strategic Architecture for Big Data, Mobility, Private Cloud, Unified Communications and Collaboration. I drive the strategy, vision and content of strategic consulting services in the Big Data IT Infrastructure services area at HP. As part of this, I meet with senior level customers to understand their challenges, conduct workshops to determine future vision and roadmaps as well as presenting at industry and analyst events.
  • Craig Partridge is the WW strategy lead for HP Technology Services Networking group. His role now covers strategy for consulting, professional and support services. The major areas of focus are Mobility, UC, Cloud Networking and IPv6. All aligned to core HP networking solutions - simplified, secure, optimized and available.
  • Don has held roles with the business and marketing of consulting for HP. Currently he supports HP's Client and Microsoft Solutions and the emerging Mobility Consulting services. He holds a MBA from UCLA's Anderson School.
  • Over 12 years of consulting, new technology services development and marketing experience covering data center, IT infrastructure, cloud technology domains. Hande holds a M.B.A degree from Bentley College, MA.
  • Having joined HP in 2003 Ian Jagger is the world-wide marketing and program manager for HP Technology Consulting's Strategic Consulting Services, Critical Facilities Services and Energy and Sustainability Management Services, as well as emerging IT services Prior to his current role, he served as the HP Services Marketing Manager for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, having joined HP in a similar role in the Middle East. Prior to HP Jagger had a 15 year international sales career, culminating in being Sales and Marketing Director for Steelcase Inc addressing Northern Europe before focusing more specifically on marketing. His initial focus was consultancy and interim marketing management, primarily for small to mid-sized customers based or looking to expand in the Middle Eastern region. Immediately prior to joining HP he was a strategic marketing consultant addressing investment targets for a technology fund. Born in Rochdale, United Kingdom, Jagger holds an honors bachelor of science degree in economics and a degree in social psychology from Loughborough University, England. He also holds a Masters Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a Chartered Marketer. He has one daughter and lives in Cary, North Carolina.
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  • Broad mix of experiences developed in more than 20 years of technology-driven innovation. Fascinated by changes triggered by mix of behavior, needs and technology. Bachelor in Theoretical Physics.
  • Working for EMEA TS Consulting, I am a Specialist in end to end management of customer data, from creation through consumption, to protection and preservation and ultimately (controlled) destruction. This includes, host, connectivity, storage, data protection and backup and archive, from a technical and more importantly, operational perspective. I have worked in the storage and data management industry for over 15 years, on both sides of the desk, as a customer and now as a consultant.
  • Patrick Lownds is a Senior Technology Consultant and is involved in designing and delivering both Client Virtualization and Cloud Computing solutions in the datacenter. Patrick co-authored “Mastering Hyper-V Deployment
  • I’m a Global Chief Engineer certified Exchange Architect and Master (MCA and MCM), specializing in Messaging, Mobility, Private Cloud, Unified Communications and Collaboration. This relates to all work to coordinate sales, pursuit and delivery readiness in all services that relate to HP's portfolio around Microsoft Exchange. Includes internal readiness as well as external events, analyst briefings. With 25+ year’s experience in the industry. Thomas has been involved with Microsoft products since 1993. Specialties: - Architecting complex public and private Cloud solutions for Exchange, SharePoint and Lync in standard, dedicated or hybrid scenarios. - Lead the HP specialists team unit to win and acheive our business targets and budget - Drive HP's Exchange Services for Private Cloud - Working with partners, vendors and internal teams to align, expand and grow HP's strategy.
  • Tim Swiader has twenty plus years in the Information Technology industry. He has worked primarily with the fortune 100 and legacy carriers transforming their applications, networks and data center facilities.
  • Tom Clement has over 30 years experience in the areas of adult learning, secondary education, and leadership development. During this time Tom has been a consistent champion of “non-traditional” training delivery methods, including blended learning, virtual delivery (self paced and instructor led), the use of training games and simulations, and experiential learning. Tom has spent the past 25 years of his career at Hewlett Packard, focused most recently on HP’s global Virtualization, Cloud, and Converged Infrastructure customer training programs. Tom manages the strategic direction and overall performance of these training programs, ensuring these worldwide programs help HP’s customers capitalize on the business opportunities made available by IT advancements in each of these subject areas. Tom and his global teammates utilize best in class instructors, course content and supporting equipment infrastructure to deliver these training programs to HP’s customers. The team prides itself on providing the Virtualization, Cloud, and Converged Infrastructure content customers need when and where they need it, anywhere in the world. Tom is based in the Washington, DC suburbs and can be reached at
  • Tari is a Distinguished Technologist with 30 years of IT and cyber security experience. He is dual board certified in information security/business continuity and is responsible for a wide range of management and technology consulting services encompassing information security, disaster recovery, privacy, and risk management. His problem-solving skills, knowledge of various technology platforms, compliance statutes, industries, as well as his experience in deploying defense-in-depth and InfoSec Program solution architectures is commonly applied when advising CIOs/CISOs as well as leveraged in numerous HP client engagements throughout the world. Tari has designed, built, and managed some of the world’s largest InfoSec programs allowing them to defend against even the most aggressive attackers.
  • I provide technical consulting services at all phases including analysis, planning, design and implementation. I have a wide range of experience in WAN and LAN technologies, as well as providing security solutions and deploying operating system infrastructure. Besides working directly with clients to deploy technology in their data centers, I also find myself architecting or discussing solutions with a business’s chief information officer, helping to lay out a roadmap for the coming years.
  • Bill is the Principal Data Center Energy Technologist for HP Technology Services. Kosik is a licensed professional engineer, LEED Accredited Professional, a Certified Energy Manager, and a Building Energy Modeling Professional. He is responsible for research and implementation of sustainable, energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible design strategies for data centers. He is currently a subject matter expert for the USGBC on the new LEED Data Centers, the EPA/DOE on unification of energy metrics, and the Green Grid on responding to the EPA’s Energy Star for Data Centers program. He has an engineering degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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