A holistic view

As the tidal wave of data continues to flood the enterprise, businesses are constantly looking for new ways to streamline the infrastructure that supports its generation and storage, and manage it more efficiently.

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A holistic view
By  Piers Ford Published  May 16, 2013

As the tidal wave of data continues to flood the enterprise, businesses are constantly looking for new ways to streamline the infrastructure that supports its generation and storage, and manage it more efficiently. Piers Ford reports.

Data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) – the convergence of IT and data centre facilities functions – is rapidly becoming the weapon of choice in the quest for a holistic view of data centre assets, performance and energy consumption. And with its ability to provide a comprehensive real-time view from the server rack right up to the building’s power consumption, it is also playing an increasingly important strategic role in planning for data centre availability.

Last year, research and consultancy firm MarketsandMarkets valued the global DCIM market at a relatively modest $307 million. But it forecast annual growth of almost 50%, suggesting that it will reach $3.14 billion by 2017.

This growth will be driven by the IT manager’s need to measure asset performance and maximise its value to the business, as well as assessing cooling requirements. DCIM will also meet the requirement to plan for scenarios that are likely to include more server and storage virtualisation and consolidation, and will reflect the increasing pressure to operate a greener, more sustainable infrastructure.

“Data is growing and expanding at an unprecedented rate, which will only accelerate,” said Syed Akhtar, sales director software MEA at Schneider Electric’s IT business, which supplies integrated management software suite StruxureWare.

“For instance, social media and photo/video share are rapidly growing mediums requiring massive data storage and sharing capacity. The systems which allow us to browse social media sites, tweet and share pictures require critical infrastructure – and this is where DCIM comes into play.

“Markets such as the Middle East are still relatively young, which brings its own advantages. Users can leap over the early phases of development that more mature markets enforce. This allows them to focus resources on improving efficiency through methods such as heat-recycling and a comprehensive unified data centre operation approach.”

While it is still a relatively niche market, there is good general awareness of the benefits of DCIM in the region: improved visibility across the infrastructure, greater automation, increased application availability and operating efficiency, and better decision making. Leading players are unanimous in predicting growth, although it is likely to be uneven in the immediate future.

“I see DCIM in the incubation stage, with some pockets of opportunities in the region,” said Sanjeet Padhy, service assurance practice manager at CA MENA, which has its own comprehensive DCIM solution.

“I also see DCIM as an area of interest with telcos and MSPs who have started thinking of offering DCIM as a service. Globally, a joint CA/IDC study found that 85% of organisations admit that issues with data centre power, space and cooling capacity – as well as asset and uptime issues – resulted in delayed or aborted application rollouts, reduced ability to support customers, and unplanned reallocation of OpEx and CapEx budget away from strategic goals during the past year. I think that organisations in the Middle East region will eventually face the same issues.”

According to Ciaran Forde, vice president, enterprise, MEA at imVISION vendor Commscope, growth in the region will come from both data centre upgrades and the implementation of DCIM in green-field data centres across the region.

“It is predicted that the majority of computer processing will be done in cloud-based data centres,” said Forde. “This means more and more processing and storage will be done outside the organisation’s network. For this to happen, organisations must have the highest level of confidence in these data centres to manage and protect their data and business processing. An effective DCIM solution is part of the economic confidence-building picture.”

So where does the channel fit in? DCIM is certainly not an off-the-shelf sale. Legacy data centres are complex, hybrid environments. And while DCIM is a prime lever for imposing order on an infrastructure which has probably evolved in an ad hoc way, it requires a deep skills set.

“DCIM knowledge covers a wide range of areas including power, cooling, copper and fibre cable plants, energy efficiency, management tools and integrating IT service management, all of which require hands-on experience, some formal training and in many cases, certifications,” said Forde.

Concentrating on specific benefits such as energy efficiency could be one way into the market. CA’s Padhy said that traditional approaches to energy insight and chargeback are limited and labour-intensive, making this a great opportunity for DCIM sales.

Salil Dighe, managing director at Meta Byte Technologies, a regional SI which focuses on power saving and server capacity optimisation, agreed.

“Power consumption in data centres is a black hole,” he said. “No one wants to measure it and they seldom have the ability to. We need to admit that the days are gone when you could take power for granted in Middle Eastern data centres. Gartner estimates that electricity bills now constitute 12% of the TCO for data centres. That sums up the story, and finance executives are looking to bring down data centre OpEx. This is where we believe the greatest demand will come in the future.

“DCIM is a niche area and channels need to invest in acquiring both skills sets and resources in technology and business. There is no hit and run, as these are long term relationships with customers that have a long sales cycle. Channels need to understand this backdrop. But it will be very difficult for anyone who treats DCIM as a box sale.”

Demand for DCIM is likely to be strongest among medium and large data centre operators, but there could also be sales opportunities with sophisticated SMEs who want a single point for managing their infrastructure component with a little investment, according to N. R. Rajesh, sales manager, IT infrastructure at DCIM specialist Rittal.

“All medium and large data centre owners are potential customers,” he said. “They include, but are not limited to, banks, government, educational institutions, private sector companies, ISPs and co-hosting facilities.

“Channel players need a good understanding of the data centre infrastructure components and applications, by which a specialised consultation can be carried out to address the requirement and understand the customer’s expectation. Most importantly, they should know how the specific features of the DCIM system can be converted into customer benefits while leading to additional cost savings.”

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