What Is DCIM? – Data Center Infrastructure Management [Quick Guide]

Data Center Maintenance


Jordan MacPherson - global Network and Server Management leader - headshot
Jordan MacPherson November 30, 2021

When it comes to managing data center infrastructure, there are many different moving pieces that are as complex as they are critical. Between servers, storage, networking, systems integration, energy consumption, and temperature control, there are a lot of data center assets to track and maintain.

data center IT infrastructure

A systematic approach to data center infrastructure management could be the solution you need.

What Is DCIM?

Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is the culmination of Data Center Operations and IT that can be applied for optimal data center performance. DCIM tools and best practices can be used for the monitoring and management of data center elements like power distribution elements, servers, storage hardware, and network equipment.

The definition of infrastructure, however, is evolving. Historically, it used to refer to on-premises hardware. With the continued and increasing reliance on cloud, the bounds of traditional IT infrastructure components are expanding. But no matter how you scope it, the important takeaway of infrastructure management is that it represents the full array of management practices, including:

  • Knowing what you have
  • Determining the values (What is the baseline? What is good? What is anomalous? What is bad?)
  • Ensuring uptime

Why DCIM?

In most business settings, established processes can help employees maintain productivity without letting any critical responsibilities slip through the cracks. DCIM enablement is especially critical because neglecting any aspect of data center operations could lead to costly downtime and major business disruptions.

DCIM and data center management can be used for the following activities:

  • Systems DiscoveryNetwork device discovery can be used by data center operators to take inventory of all IT devices in and around the facility. Connected measurement instruments for power distribution and air quality must also be accounted for and considered.
  • Monitoring and Reporting – Once you have an accurate inventory of the facility, data center hardware monitoring should be used to measure performance indicators. Unfortunately, exhaustive reporting of such systems can be… exhausting. The network event management functionality of DCIM helps identify and report key events and incidents that allow you to sort through the noise and identify priority issues.
  • Visualization – Infrastructure and network mapping tools can be used to elevate the performance of data center managers by providing an intuitive understanding of the facility and flow of information.

Unfortunately, most organizations don’t think of DCIM when they’re thinking of business goals. Rather, it’s more likely organizations consider DCIM to be a necessary evil which costs money and is possibly not aligned with business goals at all.

One of the reasons many organizations choose to use a third-party provider for DCIM, is because it’s not a business differentiator. You’re not going to perform better in your market because you have a strong infrastructure management practice – but if you have a weak one, you will absolutely perform worse.

Furthermore, data centers are incredibly expensive to operate, from HVAC and power to space (even with consolidation in power), and their data center infrastructure components are complex to maintain, often resulting in accumulations of haphazard documentation rather than accurate representations of reality. Plus, the best and brightest in corporate IT usually aren’t flocking to be on the patching team, which can make proper maintenance challenging.

Benefits of Data Center Infrastructure Management

The following key benefits of data center infrastructure management solutions and processes highlight the appealing business case for DCIM.

1. More Uptime

DCIM monitoring and polling help you better understand which critical systems are within your facility’s network. By monitoring and reporting on critical events, your DCIM solutions can help you identify problems before they occur. This means fewer points of failure and more uptime.

Anyone who operates a data center can confirm: the root cause of most catastrophic events is when things turn out to be different than expected or documented, and it’s difficult to remedy a problem when you’re uncertain how things are configured or haven’t accounted for.

The foundational elements to this paradigm are downtime and loss of uptime.

  • Downtime is caused by failing to do data center infrastructure management properly.
  • Loss of uptime is either planned or unplanned. When planned, you can control the loss of uptime by doing it when it’s most acceptable as opposed to experiencing an outage during a critical period of operations.

2. Improved Utilization

The network bandwidth monitoring functionality of DCIM systems can help you spot underutilized or overutilized assets in your facility. This can improve capacity planning and have significant impacts on the timing of physical asset additions.

3. Enhanced Productivity

Because data center infrastructure management tools help streamline workflow management, employees can better prioritize maintenance and necessary IMACD projects. The clarity that DCIM tools and best practices provide can reduce stress and variability of the demanding data center environment.

4. Optimized Costs

Improved utilization (from step two above) is an obvious contributor to optimized costs. In addition to capacity planning and utilization benefits, hardware health can be closely regulated. Thus, fully functioning IT hardware that has reached its EOSL with an OEM can still be utilized with the right support partner.

DCIM Best Practices

DCIM is a complex, multifaceted process. While it’s not usually considered exciting, it is necessary, and there is a right way to do it. To keep your business up and running and prevent damaging outages, consider the following 5 best practices for keeping up with your DCIM routine.

Know What You Have

It is imperative to have complete documentation of all data center assets. If you don’t know what you have, it cannot be managed. Also, don’t try to oversimplify with a spreadsheet; doing so will actually make your practice more difficult because it will demand a near religious level of upkeep and judiciousness.

Gauge Resource Requirements

Start by asking: can you instrument all of that? Do you have the internal resources to watch over your assets? How are you measuring whether it’s available and performant? Most organizations, big and small, need a partner to execute on DCIM because even well-equipped companies simply don’t have the time to dedicate skilled resources to this activity. It’s best advised to make the investment and bring in an expert who has the know-how and tools to execute on a physical and logical audit. Rest assured that whatever you do, your unmanaged inventory will not go away, and if left unaddressed, it will grow more complex and less manageable.

Always Work Off the Same System of Record

This applies to everyone involved. Different political entities within the company cannot use different systems. Whether it’s the networking or storage team, everyone needs a single source of truth because data center assets are all interrelated, thus the infrastructure management record must reflect the contents of the ITSM environment precisely. Also make certain that change control processors also use that system of record.

Pro tip: Records include physical records. It might sound extreme but take a picture of every rack you’ve got and ensure it stays the way it was intended.

Implement Ongoing Monitoring

If you do experience an unplanned change, find out why. It will happen, but you must continue to detect and adapt processes to correct changes before the result in outages.

Understand What You’re Working For

It’s not uncommon for a systems engineer to craft a beautiful plan with triple redundancies and all sorts of great features. Later, the reality is that the organization does not in fact require that level of redundancy. The point is, it’s important to be able to understand what you’re actually aiming for in DCIM.

Patch Your Servers

That’s it. That’s the best practice for this step.

DCIM Tools & Solutions

There are several data center infrastructure management tools and services that can used to assist or even automate the process.

man using DCIM tools

Each of the following DCIM tools range from constructs that simply enable data center managers, to tools that are more comprehensive and introduce some level of redundancy to the data center management process.

Third Party Maintenance and Monitoring

Third party data center maintenance is a type of multivendor hardware support that can be used to maintain networking and infrastructure equipment both during and after its OEM support milestones. Third Party Maintenance (TPM) is generally inclusive of storage hardware maintenance, server maintenance, and network equipment maintenance.

For example, Park Place Technologies offers maintenance contracts with ParkView Hardware Monitoring™, a data center hardware monitoring solution that looks for incidents 24/7 and automatically opens tickets, triages the issue, and dispatches support. This level of service proactively identifies faults 24/7 without the need for customer action of any kind.

One of the most attractive benefits of TPM from Park Place Technologies is that customers have both online and mobile access to data center hardware status, events, and inventories. Leveraging TPM for your DCIM needs can provide the support that data center operators desperately need.

Full-Service Infrastructure Management

Another type of DCIM monitoring and management can be found from managed service providers. For instance, Park Place Technologies offers ParkView Managed Services™, a full suite of managed services that brings order to managing your organization’s critical infrastructure while accelerating business transformation.

At the data center infrastructure managed services level, a failure can be identified, incident tickets logged, and parts dispatched without the data center manager spending any time identifying and resolving events.

DCIM Software

DCIM software is a relatively new type of system that can be used to aggregate data from your Facilities, Data Center Operations, and IT Departments into a single tool. The key benefits of solutions like this are the integration of physical systems like humidity, airflow, and temperature gauges that wouldn’t otherwise be found in standard network management software.

Save Money with Trusted Data Center Maintenance Services

Whether you’re interested in third party hardware maintenance or a full suite of infrastructure managed services, Park Place Technologies has highly acclaimed DCIM enablement solutions that can help streamline your hardware management.

Contact Park Place Technologies today to learn how our solutions can support your data center needs!

Jordan MacPherson - global Network and Server Management leader - headshot

About the Author

Jordan MacPherson,
Jordan is responsible for guiding the global Network and Server Management offerings for Park Place’s ParkView Managed Services division. His responsibilities include collaborating with Sales, Marketing, Enterprise Operations, and the R&D team to develop and bring to market Park Place’s world-class managed services. He brings 12 years of global experience in planning, monitoring, and delivering IT Services, including nearly 10 years as a Team Lead and Strategic Applications Developer with MSP IntelliNet before its acquisition by Park Place. Jordan is a graduate of Ohio University.