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Navigate DCIM software selection, security and support

To properly evaluate DCIM software, pinpoint where you can benefit from more operational data and work with vendors. Then, ensure your selection fits your data center needs.

Infrastructure monitoring is an essential part of data center management and maintenance. As data center infrastructure management evolves, it's important to know how to select the right DCIM software and keep it secure.

Evaluate DCIM software

Before you start to evaluate each option for DCIM software, create a list of the capabilities that you need to effectively monitor your data center, such as automated reporting, real-time dashboards, data collection, asset management and in-depth search capabilities. This will make it easier to start the selection process because you can quickly develop a shortlist of software to test and investigate.

There is a lot of data collection in data center management, so you should pick two key performance indicators you think will benefit from more information. Possible areas to examine include energy and environmental monitoring, asset management, data center visualization, structured cable management, and capacity planning.

Once you've identified areas for the new software to support, research which tools include support for those functions. With a trial version, you can thoroughly test the software and get a sense of how it works within your organization's data center ecosystem. This might include working in a sandbox environment, having multiple employees use the trial version or collaborating with a value-added reseller to refine any required capabilities.

After testing and implementation, you will want to ensure someone on your team understands the software and can update it on a regular basis to protect against cyberattacks and maintain application performance.

Options abound

There are several well-known options for DCIM. These include:

Cormant-CS: One of the first DCIM software platforms on the market, this program incorporates radio frequency identification for asset management. You can also use both automatic and manual device entry to track inventory. Cormant-CS is compatible with third-party computational fluid dynamics modeling tools to analyze cooling performance.

FNT Command DCIM: This modular program addresses asset and connectivity management, workflow, discovery, monitoring, capacity planning and reporting. You can use it to create what-if scenarios and to map out potential hardware configurations.

Intel Data Center Manager: As a plugin software developer's kit, Intel Data Center Manager offers insight into power consumption and thermal and health management for all data center equipment. It can also scan and automatically add new devices, such as servers, racks and storage components, to an asset management database.

Nlyte Asset Optimizer: Nlyte Software Ltd. offers a software suite for the entire data center asset lifecycle, including processes, networking, resources, people and business attributes. You can outline device size and weight, estimated power draw, airflow direction, and cooling load with a customizable asset library. The suite has integrations for other DCIM software so you can monitor building management or IT service management from one interface.

LogicMonitor: LogicMonitor focuses on computing and network resources. You'll need other third-party sensors to provide data about power and cooling. LogicMonitor is a SaaS platform, so it doesn't introduce capital expenditures or overhead upgrade costs.

Support security with DCIM

Because DCIM software tracks many aspects of the data center, its security is paramount. Hackers can use communications spoofing, SQL injection that results in corrupt databases, poor password encryption that allows for increased visibility and program access, and unenforced management protocols that allow for unpatched vulnerabilities and that grant unauthorized access to shut down DCIM software.

Aside from software security concerns, you must also consider the safety of your data center hardware. Some DCIM software can help you keep hardware safe from potential threats -- namely asset management.

Because DCIM software tracks many aspects of the data center, its security is paramount.

Asset management is useful because it follows hardware from order to delivery, updates databases via barcodes, and indicates the need for record decommissioning. DCIM software also tracks the number of installed servers, and it alerts you if something is incorrectly installed or missing. Some DCIM tools include auto-discovery features that scan for updates and check which software version is on each server.

For further hardware protection, integrate security standards into your operational procedures. If you're not sure where to start, Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 contains guidelines for encryption and physical hardware security options. The FIPS 140-2 module can also help you determine if your security practices are comprehensive enough.

Expand functionality

If you rely on multiple software programs and still find yourself with an incomplete view of your data center, then you should look into more holistic DCIM options to minimize the need to hunt down information across more than one dashboard.

First, you must determine which information gaps you have in your DCIM setup. Then, work with the software vendor or a value-added reseller to understand the latest functionalities. Alternately, you can figure out a new option to meet your infrastructure management needs. If you have automatic software updates, you can also research which functions will be part of upcoming releases.

Over time, DCIM software will require updates and re-evaluation to ensure that you have the most integrated view of your data center. With a comprehensive view, you can establish a secure, optimized data center that is easier to manage day to day and over the long term.

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