DCIM and Quidditch – Still waiting for the brooms to fly

IMG_1512As DCIM hits its eighth birthday, Quidditch as a college sport turns ten.  The ninth Quidditch World Cup was held in Columbia, South Carolina last weekend. My son plays keeper for UNC Chapel Hill (that’s a picture of him “flying” on his broom above).

Ah, if only the brooms would really fly…

Watching Quidditch is an exercise in visual multi-tasking.  There are 12 players, 6 goals, 4 balls, 6 refs, and yes – one snitch. There are no natural breaks in play so it is non-stop action from the time the head ref calls “brooms up” until the final grab of the snitch. Call it a made up sport – what sport wasn’t first made up, by the way – but it is no less physical and strenuous than many “true” sports.

So what does Quidditch have to do with DCIM? Surprisingly, there are a number of similarities.

  • Both are relatively new introductions (Quidditch in 2006 and DCIM two years later)
  • Both can seem very complicated to newcomers
  • Both require a great deal of teamwork in order to be successful
  • Both continue to evolve as they become more accepted

But the biggest similarity is that both need the brooms to fly.

For Quidditch, I mean this literally – I mean, how do we get those brooms to really fly? For DCIM, I mean this more figuratively – how do we take an inventory, capacity planning, workflow management, and monitoring tool to the next level? How do we go from a passive tool to an active data center management assistant that will not only show us how things look today but will actively assess the data center on a near real-time basis and automate corrective actions to improve the data center performance?

The good news is that this is happening, albeit perhaps more slowly than many would like. Virtual servers can be automatically moved to different physical hardware based on the status of a UPS, for example. Auto-discovery can provide detailed asset information and can automatically track changes to hardware, software, firmware, and even network port connections. DCIM solutions can be configured to automatically drop the ceiling in a hot or cold aisle containment when the fire control system detects a fire. RFID asset management systems can be tied to DCIM solutions to automatically detect movement of servers into and out of racks. CRAC units can be turned on when the DCIM detects that additional cooling is needed in the data center.

Maybe that’s not flying, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.

After eight years of trying to answer the question “what is it and what can it do for me”, DCIM has finally reached an initial level of maturity and acceptance that will allow real innovation to begin. Both the “big” players and smaller innovative companies can now look beyond the basic DCIM functionality and finally look at taking things to the next level. This will likely involve cooperation between vendors, customers, and experts in various data center disciplines. This collaborative approach, rather than having every DCIM vendor try to do it all by themselves, has the best chance of advancing DCIM from running to flying.

Brooms up!