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What Is Data Centre Management? What is DCIM?

Introduction to data centre management

Data centres are a critical part of business technology infrastructure, whether it’s an on-premise server room, or at the "edge", virtualized, in a colocation campus. The importance of managing this key resource cannot be overstated, as issues can severely disrupt the day-to-day running of essential business services, causing huge losses in revenue and time. Management of data centres is usually undertaken by either a team or a single data centre manager whose responsibility it is to keep everything running at full capacity and optimised to allow workforce to access mission-critical workloads and cloud access solutions.

What is a data centre?

A data centre is a facility consisting of interconnected computers, storage systems, and computing infrastructure that organisations utilise to compile, analyze, store, and distribute large quantities of data. Businesses heavily depend on the applications, services, and data housed within a data centre for daily operations.

What is data centre management?

Data centre management can be defined as the overseeing of a series of processes, services, and applications related to data centres. This includes the consideration of dealing with large volumes of equipment, software and data as well as maintenance and security.

Key responsibilities in data centre management include:

  • Maintenance of data centre hardware and software, including updates and installation
  • Connectivity solutions to external 3rd parties using Internet Service Providers and Network Service Providers
  • Managing data and application storage, flow and distribution
  • Planning and execution of robust backup methodology
  • Disaster Recovery and Continuity Planning
  • Day-to-day technical support (in some cases, additional out of hours emergency support)

What is DCIM (Data Centre Infrastructure Management)?

Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) means is the centralization of data centre management processes using specialised tools, including sensors, hardware and software. These DCIM tools allow for the streamlining of the many processes that keep data centres cages, shared space, and floors running at their desired capacity. Data centre management teams can use the data collected and presented in the software to intelligently plan and monitor changes in usage and bring together multiple independent systems to give a real-time view of IT infrastructure, bandwidth scaling per server clusters, server capacity, and state of agreed SLAs, e.g., room temperature and maintenance response times.

Most DCIM software is designed with ITIL standards in mind, meaning it follows the systemic framework set out in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), demonstrating best practices for efficient IT service management. Enterprise-level DCIM software can also enable data centre managers to automate processes like checking thresholds and setting proactive alarms, replacing older tools like Excel to maximize data centre capacity.

DCIM consists of specialist tools and insight from a data centre manager working together to ensure a robust working environment where IT infrastructure priorities are aligned with business needs:

  • Maximum uptime / availability
  • Minimized downtime / risk
  • Suitability and efficiency of applications and services
  • Cost, contracts, and license management
  • Software Defined Networking management software
  • Virtualized Machine software management tools

Disadvantages of data centre management

Management of a complex IT architecture involving data centres can come with operational difficulties, especially in fast moving agile environments. Data centre managers often have to reconcile legacy equipment with evolving requirements, as well as oversee changes to systems with limited control processes.

Common problems with data centre management include:

  • Ensuring SLAs applying to data recovery, uptime, application and network availability are adhered to, even when they differ across applications.
  • Overseeing the deployment of new applications, products and services internally across inconsistent architectures and policies at iteratively faster timescales.
  • Governing IT resource with respect to power, physical and digital capacity at ‘best cost’.
  • Operating an ecosystem of systems, equipment, and multiple vendors across multiple SLAs, contracts, licenses and warranties.
  • Maintaining legacy systems and equipment, often without up-to-date monitoring and oversight.
  • Advocating for best practice in build and efficiency, justifying costs for cooling and energy density.

Advantages of Data Centre Management

Data centre management can be an invaluable insight for many businesses looking to drive digital transformation internally. The benefits of a fully optimised management process can enable further efficiencies, preventing waste and increasing operational agility. With the tools and solutions available to enterprises today, data centre managers can streamline day-to-day processes, allowing them to plan for the future.

Benefits of a data centre management system include:

  • Definition and identification of all assets within the data centre ecosystem.
  • Quicker rollout of new equipment and processes.
  • Build relationships with 3rd party users to enable new services for workforces.
  • Cost savings with cross connect services to internet and cloud service provider nodes.
  • Access communities within the data centr to increase new revenue streams and partnerships.
  • Increased operational efficiency resulting in improved energy and cooling costs.
  • Revealing previously untapped capacity.
  • Futureproofing capacity as well as the ability to plan for growth in the future.

Data centre management system

Data centre management system can be defined as tools that enable managers to collect and view a wide variety of pertinent data to streamline and automate tasks. Enterprise level software for data centre management allows staff to reduce waste, downtime and risk. These tools regulate across common data centre infrastructure concerns: applications, power, equipment, and networks.

Common tasks enabled by data centre management software include:

  • Data collection: Sensors and hardware, as well as software that relays information relating to capacity, power consumption and operational statuses across multiple sites and equipment.
  • Analysis: The data collected is used in calculations to inform usage trends and monitor set thresholds, with real-time alerting.
  • Tracking: Monitoring of key metrics (e.g. PUE, bandwidth usage, multiple office locations – WAN Services) across IT infrastructure to align with business goals.
  • Automation: Workflow policy management with integrated tracking, change logging and reporting for increased accountability.
  • Recovery & Continuity: Planning and setting procedures with backup server locations, UPS equipment and generators in case of critical failure.

Data centre operations

Data centre operations deal with the updating and maintenance of equipment, licenses, warranties and contracts. Tools specifically developed for this purpose can help to automate the updating of procedures, track documentation and schedule regular maintenance of equipment. Larger enterprises may require the management of support requests for both internal and external staff, clients and suppliers. Data centres often require the presence of on call teams onsite who deal with out of hours requests and alarms, but there is an increasing trend of ‘lights out’ data centre operations. This system is based on reduced human presence onsite, instead relying on remote monitoring, automated processes and specialist software such as Software Defined Networking - SDN.

Data centre monitoring

Monitoring of data centres is shifting towards a centralized, automated model integrated with advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The specialized skill sets required for running and managing data centres mean some companies are looking for ‘DCaaS’, wherein the business is not responsible for any of the maintenance or the costs associated with scaling up capacity, like the options presented in off-premise colocation. The equipment is leased to the business and the subscription includes onsite or remote monitoring.

Cloud and its impact on data centre management

Hosting in public or private cloud adds complexity to data centre management. Hybrid IT solutions that include on-premise servers as well as multiple connections to cloud services, require monitoring and security. Data centre managers are responsible for consolidating services provided by cloud vendors to give business stakeholders risk assurance. Colocating can offer benefits in the streamlining of multiple private cloud connections and an eased ability to scale up without the complexities of managing owned assets, vendors and licenses. Other benefits include regained control over IT infrastructure assets, with a dedicated support team to manage servers. With colocation, businesses enter a communities of interest that serve to create strategic connections that benefit all parties involved.

Data centre management as a discipline encapsulates a wide range of essential services to keep IT infrastructure aligned to and servicing business needs. With the development of technology and AI, more and more processes are being automated allowing the diversification and optimisation of architecture. As businesses drive toward digital transformation, it's never been more important to take stock of your assets and see how they can enable the future.

At Digital Realty, we provide core data centre services based on operational excellence and efficient design, giving your business the tools to build a purposeful IT architecture. With Digital Realty colocation, we enable businesses to interconnect with communities of interest and build flexible, scalable hybrid IT infrastructure to grow for the future.

Get in touch with us to find out more!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Data Centre Management

What is a Tier 1 Data Centre?

Tier 1 data centres have been derisively referred to as ‘warehouses with power’, as the investment in these are usually driven by cost and time to market. They tend to be tactical choices for businesses that need support that fits in their budget or for businesses that don’t rely on real-time service outputs.

What is a Tier 2 Data Centre?
What is a Tier 3 Data Centre?

Data centres classified as Tier 3 are the most common type used by businesses all over the world. Tier 3 data centre requirements include all of the prior tiers but add a layer of reliability and long-term viability for businesses looking for year-on-year support. Businesses use Tier 3 centres as strategic assets, as the infrastructures they form part of are built beyond their current IT requirements. With rigorous uptime requirements, they are designed with multiple paths for cooling and power.

What is a Tier 4 Data Centre?

Tier 4 is the highest possible classification for a data centre, and typically costs twice as much to build as a Tier 3 centre. This is because every piece of equipment in the facility has a backup powered independently, with a seamless transition in case of a failure. This calibre of data centre is built to have no single point of failure, with multiple power and cooling paths into equipment and more than one connection to the main power grid.

What is public and private cloud?

The difference between public cloud and private cloud infrastructure is who owns, controls and maintains the physical compute resources.

Public cloud environments offer their range of computing resources over the internet. Their servers often provide resources for many different companies. They are typically hosted in large data centres and offered by prominent public cloud providers, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) etc.

Private cloud infrastructure, on the other hand, is usually on-premises, privately hosted services used solely by one organisation. They are generally held behind company firewalls and dedicated to specific or specialist workloads.

What is colocation?

Colocation is the way forward for businesses as it provides the physical location, cooling, power and security, so that you can move to a future-proof agile IT infrastructure and expand your global footprint.

What does PUE mean?

Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is an excellent tool for benchmarking data centre energy use over time, allowing companies to see the results of their changes and improvements.

What are the three key data centre management activities?

The three key data centre management activities are:

  1. Monitoring and maintenance: This involves regular monitoring of the data centre infrastructure and performing routine maintenance tasks.
  2. Capacity planning: This activity involves analyzing data centre resources to determine the current and future capacity requirements. It helps in identifying potential bottlenecks and planning for future expansion or optimisation.
  3. Incident management: This activity refers to the process of identifying, addressing, and resolving any issues or incidents that occur in the data centre environment. It involves having proper procedures and protocols in place to quickly respond to and resolve any problems to minimise the impact on business operations.
Why do we need DCIM?

DCIM (Data Centre Infrastructure Management) is needed for several reasons:

  1. Efficiency
  2. Optimisation
  3. Capacity planning
  4. Cost savings
  5. Higher ROI
What are the 3 main components of a data centre infrastructure?

The three main components of a data centre infrastructure are:

  1. Hardware: This includes servers, networking equipment, storage devices, power distribution units, cooling systems, and other physical infrastructure components required to support and operate the data centre.
  2. Software: Data centre infrastructure software includes operating systems, virtualization software, management tools, and monitoring and analytics applications. These software components enable efficient management and operation of the data centre.
  3. Network: The network infrastructure component includes the routers, switches, firewalls, and other networking devices that connect various components within the data centre and facilitate data transfer and communication.
What is a managed data centre?

A managed data centre is a data centre facility that is outsourced to and managed by a third-party service provider. The provider takes care of the day-to-day operations, maintenance, and management of the data centre infrastructure on behalf of the organization. This includes tasks such as monitoring, capacity planning, security, and incident response. By outsourcing data centre management to a specialized provider, organizations can focus on their core business activities and benefit from the expertise and resources of the service provider.