DCIM has real value – BUT it’s not easy!

IworthItn the 1980 presidential debate, Ronald Reagan famously said “There you go again” whenever Jimmy Carter would bring up the issue of Medicare. Through the years, this phrase has been used to disarm opponents who repeatedly raise the same issue. 

So to those DCIM vendors who repeatedly say getting started with DCIM is not hard, I’ll simply quote President Reagan:

There you go again.

Getting started with DCIM is WORTH IT, but it is most decidedly NOT EASY.

Unfortunately, there are multiple vendors trying to say that DCIM is easy, as if saying it enough times will make it so. I know it isn’t true because I work with their customers years later as they replace these easy DCIM solutions which are not providing them the value they thought they were buying. It is not enough to simply import your Visio diagram and transfer data from spreadsheets to a database and then call it a DCIM solution. DCIM solutions are not magical. DCIM is more than a hardware or software product; it is a process which involves multiple groups in your organization, many of which are currently working in siloes. It means having to sit down and determine the data each group needs to effectively manage your data center. It is defining the processes you want to manage through your DCIM solution. It is verifying the data you have now is accurate. It is setting up SNMP community strings and Modbus registers and IPMI usernames and passwords to poll data from equipment in your data center. It is trying to get the DCIM solution to successfully gather information from legacy hardware using an old, undocumented protocol. DCIM is taking the time up front to determine your needs, to evaluate potential solutions, and to run a proof of concept to verify the selected solution fits your needs in your environment.

No, that’s not easy. But it is worth the time to do it right.

Whenever a vendor tells you DCIM is easy, he or she is doing you a real disservice. You need to understand the work you need to put in to make the solution work for you. Sure, we try to do things with our DCIM solution to make your life a little easier. Auto-discovery can make the initial setup much easier. Automated change management can help to keep your data more accurate as you go forward. Workflow management can help you to manage the many tasks required to keep a data center running smoothly. Automated report generation can deliver reports to your inbox. While all nice features to make your DCIM solution easier to use, you need to understand that DCIM is not a “install once and forget about it” solution. It is an ongoing solution that will require work on your part. The demos that vendors show you all look slick and pretty, but there was work involved in getting everything set up. The bigger your data center, the more the work.

If I’ve painted a gloomy picture of DCIM, I apologize, but it’s also a realistic picture. That being said, it is still worth it. The information you can get from your DCIM solution is invaluable. Capacity planning without accurate data is simply a guess. DCIM can provide accurate data about space, power, cooling, and other resources. Troubleshooting a server problem without knowing the current server configuration and a list of recent changes is very time consuming. DCIM can provide an accurate configuration (processor, memory, disk space, network connections, and virtual machine resources) and a change log history. Trying to connect information between different systems is redundant at best, and next to impossible in some cases. DCIM can provide the interconnections between different systems without having to duplicate data. Manually entering data for all of the assets in your data center is costly and inaccurate. DCIM with auto-discovery capabilities can quickly gather this detailed information and maintain the accuracy of the data as things change.

Yes, it is definitely worth it. But don’t let them tell you it’s easy.