philip-heim-siemens-agPhilippe Heim, Global Portfolio Manager of DCIM, Building Technologies division at Siemens AG, examines why DCIM is becoming a critical factor in meeting the growing requirements of data center tenants…

A growing number of colocation data centers provide Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) functionality to multi-tenants today—and for good reason. As demand for outsourcing data management to colocation data centers grows, so do new demands for integration, operational efficiency and improved capacity utilization from colocation tenants.

In fact, the rapidly changing profile of colocation tenants and their requirements is one of several market forces redefining the colocation industry. The cloud, Big Data, IoT, and virtualization all continue to impact technology advancements for data centers. And industry reports show that the growing adoption of containerized data centers will be a key trend for DCIM market growth, set to grow globally at a CAGR of 14.68% by 2020.1

DCIM in growth

In response, many colocation data center providers are relying on their DCIM systems to help them better meet multi-tenant expectations and improve satisfaction. And DCIM providers must be sure to keep pace and meet new capability and functionality demands from businesses for such colocation data centers. With new and existing DCIM features, businesses are becoming more strategic and defined in their expectations of DCIM tools in order to meet their objectives in an increasingly competitive market.

A software tool introduced in the last decade, DCIM bridges the gap between facility and IT operations by providing a single, comprehensive view of both areas. It monitors the use and energy consumption of IT-related equipment and facility infrastructure components.

While colocation data centers realize that DCIM alone will not grow their business, it is often credited for supporting critical colocation business objectives, specifically Improved business margins; future flexibility; and better quality control

Addressing capacity management to improved business margin

Efficient capacity management is critical to the success and profitability of colocation data centers. Critical functions such as rack space, power, cooling and network connectivity, require close oversight.

However, asset moves, adds and changes (MACs) create an imbalance in capacity utilization and can result in stranded assets – unidentified and underutilized capacity on some servers while exceeding resources on others. Without clear insight into available capacity, operators may invest in unneeded assets while others sit underutilized. The result is a negative impact on profitability at a time when capital is needed for growth.

To better manage capacity issues, colocation operators utilize DCIM tools, reducing costs and improving capacity utilization. With sophisticated tracking and reporting capabilities, DCIM allows colocation operators to accurately assess capacity levels of all of their assets. IT managers better control capacity and workflow to maximize usage. Facility managers can maximize environmental conditions to help prevent costly downtime.

Transparency in DCIM billing

From a customer’s perspective, DCIM systems that offer real-time billing provide additional benefits. Real-time billing improves transparency for tenants and is a tremendous advantage for accurate billing and budgeting. By tracking customer usage in real time, operators invoice customers based on actual usage. While this may sound counter-intuitive to the traditional method of billing tenants at a set fee, it provides customers with new levels of data. It allows them to improve planning and perhaps expand usage. Most importantly, tenant satisfaction increases.

Obtaining real-time billing information can be difficult, depending upon the capabilities of your DCIM system; however, companies that capture it gain a clear competitive edge. The information helps reduce tenant prices, which helps them grow market share.

The importance of the DCIM UI

A friendly DCIM user interface can help increase a business’s productivity of its management and service team. For example, a DCIM system that makes it easier for different users—including electricians, technicians, and engineers in addition to data center or IT managers—to provide information and not require filling out forms will provide greater efficiency.

DCIM systems can support from 300 to 800 communication protocols. Some even provide an open API for enterprise software integration and customization

In addition, the more advanced systems provide infrastructure detail and IT component performance data in real time and in 3-D/4-D images. It allows operators to quickly assess situations through visualization and create insightful reports. Systems that provide user-friendly dashboards over the web allow workers to work with the dashboard anytime, anywhere.

Greater integration reliance for future flexibility

Colocation data center mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity will increase in the coming years. As a colocation data center grows by acquiring new properties, it needs to integrate multiple systems from multiple vendors into one system. DCIM’s open protocol allows operators to do that.

Success following acquisitions requires connected networks, with legacy systems of newly acquired locations integrating with enterprise management software. Colocation operators are relying on DCIM systems with open interface and protocol support to help ensure a smooth transition in acquisition growth. DCIM systems can support from 300 to 800 communication protocols. Some even provide an open API for enterprise software integration and customization.

Colocation operators can overcome the challenges of managing multiple sites with high-performance dashboards that allow operators to scale from one data center to dozens while monitoring key performance indicators from a centralized location.

Real-time monitoring for better quality control

One of the most important benefits of a DCIM system is real-time monitoring of fixed assets. Most colocation operators consider it a mandatory feature. Using sensors to collect operational and environmental data throughout the data center, real-time monitoring ensures that energy, equipment and floor space are used as efficiently as possible. With DCIM, colocation operators gain live, actionable data that allows immediate response and better control of their facility and IT assets.

At the same time, centers are improving quality of operations for their tenants and reducing risk of fire, water leakage, temperature variation, and increased humidity levels. Some see it as a competitive advantage to customers. In addition to improving quality control, it provides customers with power, bandwidth and temperature information in real-time over the Web.

Preparing for the future

Competition among colocation centers will only intensify and will dramatically change how business is conducted for colocation data centers in the next two years. At the center of competition and driving change are the demands and requirements of larger and more sophisticated tenants.

To maximize efficiency and improve customer satisfaction levels, colocation operators are relying more heavily on DCIM and its ability to provide detailed information and performance analytics. The knowledge gained from using DCIM may allow operators to see utilization and capacity gaps, improve planning and forecasting, and ultimately improve asset utilization to maximize revenue.


Philippe Heim is the Global Portfolio Manager of DCIM, Building Technologies division, Siemens AG. He is responsible for managing the Siemens DCIM portfolio from strategic planning to tactical activities and has played an instrumental role in working with Siemens’ strategic partners in the DCIM market.With Siemens for more than 5 years, Philippe holds a degree in electrical engineering and an executive master’s degree in marketing management. Philippe can be reached at [email protected]

References
Research and Markets, “Global Data Center Infrastructure Management Market – Increased Need for DCIM Among Colocation Providers”, Sept. 2016.