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DCIM takeup on the rise but why has adoption been so slow?

According to 451 Group’s recent report, sales of datacentre infrastructure management (DCIM) software are now growing rapidly after a slow few years.

They estimate that until now fewer than 10% of mid to large-sized datacentres have deployed DCIM either because of budgetary constraints or due to lack of experience or knowledge in the procurement of large software systems. Indeed, the term DCIM itself is still relatively young, having only been around for a few years. People are still trying to sort DCIM out which was certainly hampered early on because the available DCIM toolset was quite immature. However, this appears to be changing with many beginning to see DCIM as an essential tool for managing capacity, controlling costs and helping to increase efficiency without compromising availability.

So what have been the barriers?
451 Group identifies cost as by far the biggest issue. Although DCIM is not necessarily expensive when compared with other enterprise management software systems, it is rarely planned for, and many datacentre operators just don’t have the large budget required for software implementations.

Added to that, because DCIM spans both IT and Facilities, two realms normally segregated from each other, this can create the situation where there are disagreements over whose budget should pay for DCIM and no one takes responsibility.

Furthermore, DCIM is an enabling technology and that makes quantifying the benefits a challenge which has also contributed to slow adoption. DCIM makes it easier to raise datacentre temperatures and push utilisation levels higher, to drive up power density, and to balance IT demand with the supply of power and cooling. Some of these actions can be automated by DCIM but most are enabled by data and analysis from DCIM rather than the DCIM itself.

The priority for most datacentre managers is to maintain availability, which has created a culture of personal responsibility. There is a high level of trust and reliance on manual processes, and it can take some convincing for operators to have confidence in the dependability of DCIM software.

There also hasn’t been that overarching platform that allows you to start off small and expand out. It’s been a series of point products you have to integrate yourself, which is a lot of work. This isn’t easy because to do so you need a lot of skillsets. It requires a background in thermodynamics, electrical engineering and a broad knowledge of the IT side of datacentres and many other areas in order to put together a piecemeal solution. Add to that the underperforming early DCIM products and the issue was compounded.

Paradoxically, 451 Group claim some of the bigger benefits from DCIM can be the most difficult to measure. For example, the cost savings of avoiding downtime can be difficult to quantify when a monitoring and asset management system alerts an operator to a faltering UPS.

So what’s the situation now?
However, what is clear is that as a result of the improvements in today’s DCIM products, with products more complete, more functional and easier to integrate, the biggest barrier to rapid adoption of DCIM now for the datacentre operator is choosing the most appropriate solution for their needs.

The 451 Group report states that the DCIM market is now crowded with more than 55 companies offering DCIM. We’d actually estimate that to be much higher with at least 75 or more vendors currently offering a ‘DCIM’ solution. Coupled with previous lack of budget and experience it’s no wonder that making the choice of the most appropriate solution is difficult and confusing for the buyer and it is this more than any other factor that will continue to hamper the rapid adoption of DCIM in the datacentre.

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