Written by Daniel Tautges @danieltautges
In 2004, I joined a startup in San Francisco in the Microsoft Visio ToolSet software business. The company had licensed visualization technology and were building a toolkit to help engineers document data center racks. This company Visual Network Design (Rackwise) had about six people and a few thousand dollars in total revenue. What I knew at the time was the business model they had didn’t work but what I didn’t know was that this company would be one of the early innovators in Data Center Infrastructure Management Software (DCIM).
My early days in DCIM and the Network Management Software space led to me launching Nlyte Software into the US market, as President, and then building my consulting practice and assisting in growing the software business’ of Schneider, Geist, No Limits, InControl, Optimum Path, Asset-Point, Modius, RIT Tech and Track-It. I have been on the product development and marketing side, closed early clients and partners, worked with VC’s, advised analyst and written and executed the complete corporate plan for these and other companies. The evolution of DCIM, the strategic interest and new emerging markets, have led DCIM to a crossroads.
Evolution of DCIM
What is DCIM? My guess that if you are reading this you probably already have a pretty good idea, but fundamentally DCIM is the management of data center infrastructure in regards to Cooling, Space, Capacity, and Power. IT & Network Assets (ITAM), Service (ITSM), Uptime (NMS) are all associated components of the physical management of the data center and DCIM vendors have features to support parts of this as well.
Facilities vs. IT
Who in the organization should own DCIM and why is that important? It’s really interesting as it is different ownership at different companies. I have seen IT own the software, facilities own the space, and HR own the budget. It can make for a difficult and long sales cycle when HR owns the Data Center budget. I believe right now, companies that own data centers have determined that it is core to their business. If not, then they have outsourced or will soon move to an outsource model. Therefore, if they own their own data center the DCIM budget is now strategic. Strategic funding comes from the Executive level and so CEO’s, CIO’s, and CTO’s are now directing DCIM buying and architecture decisions. This is important as selling at this level can grow into a much bigger and strategic sale.
Back in the early days of DCIM I worked closely with (my mate) Robert Neave, CTO and co-founder of GDCM (Nlyte Software). Rob had managed a large data center for UPS in the UK so he had a deep understanding of what was needed and knew that DCIM software that existed in the market at that time had some serious deficiencies. Rob was a visionary and I had a great time helping him bring his vision to market. Rob and I both realized that DCIM would touch everything from IT to Facilities to Service Desk. I think now even more.
Outsource Impacts Evolution
Cloud and Co-lo providers had a serious impact on the DCIM market as Enterprises shifted to an outsource vs. insource model. This seriously impacted the growth of DCIM and did some serious damage to the appetite for investment in DCIM technology and killed off a few companies that were early entries. What is happening now is interesting in that the large incumbents have de-emphasized their DCIM innovation, focusing on their traditional business, while the smaller software-only players have focused their innovation around markets that are attracting new funding. IoT is one of those markets. There were always IoT components in data centers, sensors for temperature, humidity, access, etc. So some DCIM vendors have now built interfaces to support IoT data. It’s not a far reach to now be able to manage those arrays in the context of larger upstream systems.
An IoT assisted data center workflow example could be: run this Pod (area of compute), turn on thermal imaging sensors, predict load impacts, start/stop economizer, reduce/optimize load when temperature reaches a point where set point values need to be adjusted.
Internet of Things
IoT offers great advancement in tuning, measuring and managing but there are large challenges with areas around protocol compatibility and security. DCIM has, for the most part, already solved those problems and the platforms modeling and predictive capabilities should be leveraged both inside the data center and now outside the data center.
The evolution of DCIM, the Executive level interest and the new emerging IoT market has led DCIM to a Crossroads. It will be interesting to see which companies have the vision and capacity to continue to evolve in and out of the traditional data center. The ones that do could be the ones that continue their journey beyond today’s crossroad.
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