Today we continue our Data Center Executive Roundtable, a quarterly feature showcasing the insights of thought leaders on the state of the data center industry, and where it is headed. In today’s discussion, our panel of experienced data center executives – Chris Crosby of Compass Datacenters, Chris Sharp of Digital Realty Trust, Mark Wachtmann of IO, Jeff Klaus of Intel DCM and Michael Custer of Chatsworth Products – will examine the state of the market for Data Center Infrastructure Managment (DCIM) software solutions. The conversation is moderated by Rich Miller, the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier.
Data Center Frontier: It’s been an active period in the market for data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software. What’s your take on the state of the DCIM market, and pace of adoption of these tools by end users?
Jeff Klaus: The DCIM market is vibrant and evolving quickly. Customers are becoming aware of what they don’t want, and what they have seen work through peers or white papers. DCIM solution providers are more aware of customer interest in quick ROI, and so they are focusing on power management, thermal management, and asset management as areas to unite and provide rock solid process support and analysis.
Alternatively, some DCIM solutions providers are looking into more creative SaaS pricing models to speed the “time to ROI.” DCIMs are also doing a better job of differentiating and trying to find specific competencies to stand out from the pack.
Michael Custer: It seems clear that the potentially huge user base envisioned by early entrants is still there – they’re just not interested in the full suite. It’s gotten to the point that providers might start avoiding using the acronym.
In an environment where increasingly open-source is embraced and vendor-led eschewed, the DCIM chasm looks not crossable but providers that respond to specific needs with scalable solutions of determinate ROI should survive and eventually thrive.[clickToTweet tweet=”Mike Custer: The huge DCIM user base is there; they’re just not interested in the full suite.” quote=”Mike Custer: The huge DCIM user base is there; they’re just not interested in the full suite.”]
Chris Crosby: Even though it seems like we’ve been talking about it seemingly forever, I think DCIM is still very much in its infancy. Despite that, an increasing numbers of data center operators are investing in DCIM solutions. I don’t think it is as effective helping them manage and control their operations as they’d hoped. We see more home grown solutions than true deployments of a full third party system. As an analogy, DCIM implementation is a lot like an SAP implementation. It is NOT software off the shelf that you just download and use.
I think this lack of effectiveness is due to both deficiencies in the products themselves as well as how they are being used by data center operations personnel. From a product perspective, the majority of the offerings are still too proprietary. If you are buying a DCIM solution as a precursor to ultimately implementing SDN in your facility, you want to have the flexibility to integrate the solution of your choice. In many instances, capabilities like this aren’t available or the end user’s options are limited.
This is a problem that is similar to one the network hardware vendors went through in the 1990s, where each vendor had their own proprietary management scheme and it wasn’t until an open platform (HP OpenView) emerged that the required degree of interoperability that end users required could be built into these solutions. Until such a standard becomes available, this is going to be a limitation of DCIM solutions.
The other product-related issue is that many of these offerings offer a wide range of functionality, but none of them do the basics very well. The products focus on the wants and not the needs of the business. When software is developed by people focusing on wants you end up with a camel, when what you really needed was a horse.
This is analogous to most business phone systems: while you can do 30 or so different things from the set on your desk, you only use 3-4 of them on a regular basis, so you want those to be easy to use. A number of DCIM offerings are similar in that their list of features and capabilities can fill up an entire spec sheet, but they don’t do the basics well enough for the end user to successfully use their higher level functionality.
Mark Wachtmann: DCIM from a data center operator’s perspective is an essential tool. It allows you to efficiently and reliably run your data center.
Most businesses don’t have the resources to build an entire DCIM infrastructure from scratch. It is also not a priority for them.
Data centers that can expose their DCIM capabilities to their customers, providing them all of the benefits that a fully implemented DCIM system has to offer, will be a step ahead of the competition.
Chris Sharp: The DCIM market is evolving to enable greater visibility and control to meet growing demands for simpler, more automated approaches to operating infrastructure – everything from switches to racks.
To adapt, data center providers need to offer greater transparency into how they operate their infrastructure.
More importantly, they need to empower customers to self-serve by becoming a seamless component of their customers’ overall solutions. To accomplish this level of connectivity and availability, dynamic APIs will be key for the industry.
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