Considerations for a successful DCIM implementation

Selecting the right DCIM software is a complicated process. Make sure you have executive buy-in, vendor support and defined goals to get the best return on investment.

When a data center infrastructure management tool doesn't meet expectations, it's often the result of a training problem or a mismanaged installation. Executive buy-in and sponsorship, plus strong pre-purchase analysis and careful selection, are critical to a successful DCIM implementation.

The majority of organizations expand data center infrastructure management (DCIM) installations within the first year or two, indicating their overall value and success. However, if your DCIM implementation has more features than you can realistically handle, it can diminish your level of satisfaction.

Vendor technical support is also key, but you're still responsible for sufficient resource allocation and day-to-day operations no matter what the vendor promises. No two data centers are alike, and vendors rely on their own past experiences.

Working with a vendor for a DCIM implementation

To ensure that a DCIM system matches your operational needs, you must provide vendors with internal expertise.

A baseline configuration should monitor server storage, rack power distribution units, uninterruptable power supply and computer room air conditioning. A DCIM tool should also deliver reports to you, but it won't deliver the value-added information that is specific to your organization's data center.

Throughout the planning process, review all of your data center documentation with your vendor and outline your goals. If a specific piece of equipment needs data connections for water temperatures and flow rates or air flow data, confirm that the vendor can add sensors before the DCIM implementation.

Ensure a successful DCIM installation

Once you select a DCIM suite and vendor, outline your expectations for the suite's functionalities, training, installation and data usage.

Make sure you understand the implementation procedure and that you know what is really included. Is the setup generic or can it be fully customized for your operation? If it is customizable, ask how the vendor achieves the new configuration. Is this customization work included in the price, will you be charged for extra time or will you simply be provided with support to customize the tool to your own needs?

Have key personnel participate in the DCIM implementation. If the vendor simply comes in and installs the system for you, it's unlikely that it will address the nuances of your organization, or that your people will fully understand the system. This can lead to a lack of enthusiasm about the new tool, unused features or lost data center insight.

Ask your vendor about what is included in the training. Is it a cursory half-day overview with ongoing help desk support or is it solid training on the details of your implementation with periodic on-site reviews? A DCIM tool provides more capability than anyone can absorb in a single-day training session, so it's best if the vendor comes back in a month, then at three, six and nine months for training and evaluation.

As you use the DCIM tool, you'll learn what you would like the system to tell you. The vendor can either show you how to get that information or make modifications to achieve that functionality.

In addition, you should determine which groups outside the IT department can use the DCIM data. Giving reports to finance, compliance, facilities and top management can bolster ongoing support if you can demonstrate improved efficiency and cost savings.

Use your DCIM tool regularly

DCIM tools deliver an enormous range of information. They can help avoid disasters -- and resolve them faster if they occur -- but DCIM software is not magic. You must still perform root cause analysis and use the DCIM software regularly to efficiently troubleshoot data center issues.

If you don't use the DCIM capabilities regularly, your system will fall into disuse and you will lose out on its potential functions and analytics. You must fully participate in the implementation of your DCIM tool and use it if you want to derive the maximum benefit of what your investment can provide.

To avoid DCIM disuse, require key monitoring and logging of key readings and run preconfiguration simulations before implementing new data center hardware. This way, you can confirm that the hardware is compatible and detectable using DCIM.

No reputable DCIM vendor will leave a customer with a half-finished or improperly configured DCIM suite. But if the DCIM falls short of expectations, you must thoroughly assess what capabilities you have compared to what you want, and then contact your vendor and work with them to get your DCIM software up to your organization's standards.

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