Merger and acquisition activity is set to reshape the multi-tenant data centre market: The popularity of colo data centres is on the rise. At the same time, the industry demands greater levels of operational efficiency backed by service level agreements, transparency and reporting. Data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) offers the required transparency and performance measurement of activities in colo data centres.
By Philippe Heim, global portfolio manager DCIM, Siemens Building Technologies.
Typically, a colo data centre provides the building, cooling, power, bandwidth and physical security while the customer provides servers and storage. Space in the facility is often leased to customers by the rack, cabinet, cage or room. Colo offerings reflect the pulse of the market, as evidenced by the growth forecasts of 451 Research: The market researcher calculated how much space data centres worldwide will occupy by 2020. The findings indicate that the colo market is outperforming other types of data centres, reaching annual growth rates of 8%.
DCIM ensures transparency
Many colo data centres have extended their offerings by customer demand to include data centre infrastructure management (DCIM). DCIM tools offer asset management, central data centre management – a ‘single pane of glass’ –, improved forecasting and an extended life cycle. For the colo data centre customers DCIM provides complete visibility in order to track and monitor the performance of their assets.
A bridge between FM and IT
For colo data centres DCIM forms a bridge between facilities management and IT operations by providing a single, comprehensive view of both areas. It monitors the use and energy consumption of IT related equipment and facility infrastructure components. The decision by colo data centres to adopt DCIM tools marks a significant shift in attitudes. Three to five years ago, quantifying the value of DCIM was difficult, and the tool itself was seen as more of a luxury than a necessity for small to mid-size businesses.
Today, DCIM represents a win-win for both colo data centres and customers alike. For customers, operating with a colo data centre provider will allow them to customise their data centre processes to meet specific workflow needs. This ensures that DCIM solutions will provide maximum benefits and reduce the risk of roadblocks in data access and use. DCIM tools will provide companies flexibility to adjust operations quickly. This will permit a company to increase analytics and the workflow substantially as required and reduce operations when they don’t need optimal analytics power.
As increased competition is driving market consolidation, data centre managers are recognising the importance of tools such as DCIM to their own organisations and the benefits it can bring to their customers. DCIM is now seen by many as being business critical not only to remotely manage and benchmark multiple colo data centre sites but also for the security of those sites. Datacenter Clarity LC, offered by Siemens, is a good example of DCIM software and how it can enhance the customer experience as it accurately and efficiently manages the colo data centre infrastructure. The software provides real-time visualisation of asset attributes and powerful tools to determine the most efficient data centre configuration.
With the data centre, market consolidating the fusion of multiple business systems is commonplace with an ever-growing need for the DCIM to integrate with third-party vendors. Having an open protocol interface to facilitate such integration is important as data centre managers are increasingly recognising that such DCIM integration can provide competitive advantages. Today, colo data centres are readily investing in DCIM systems as it is seen by both data centres and customers to be one of the most important tools needed to complement any data centre facility infrastructure. It can be described as the command centre with the software providing a comprehensive overview/transparency for making decisions based on real facts.
The integration of multiple business systems, a frequent requirement during mergers and acquisitions, also means that the system capacity of colo data centres must be scalable and effectively managed and delivered on a global basis. Critical functions, such as rack space, power, cooling and network connectivity, require close oversight which is achieved through a KPI based client dashboard. However, asset moves, adds and changes (MACs) can create an imbalance in capacity utilisation and can result in stranded assets – unidentified and underutilised capacity on some servers while exceeding resources on others. Without clear insight into available capacity, operators could invest in unneeded assets while others sit underutilised. The result is a negative impact on profitability at a time when capital is needed for growth. To better manage such capacity issues, colo data centre operators can utilise DCIM tools that will reduce costs and improve capacity utilisation. With sophisticated tracking and reporting capabilities, DCIM allows colo data centres to accurately assess capacity levels of all of their assets. IT managers better control capacity and workflow to maximise usage. Facility managers can maximise environmental conditions to help prevent costly downtime.
Billing on actual usage
DCIM systems offer another important advantage; real-time billing. Real time billing improves customer transparency and is a tremendous advantage for accurate billing and budgeting. By tracking customer usage in real-time, operators invoice customers based on actual usage. This may sound counter-intuitive to the traditional method of billing customers at a set fee. For customers, it gives access to new levels of data that will allow improved planning and perhaps expanded usage. Most importantly, customer satisfaction increases.
While costs for DCIM systems will vary depending upon the capabilities required to address particular challenges by the colo data centre, perhaps it is more relevant to examine the added value that DCIM can provide. The ideal scenario is when a colo data centre agrees with its customer the level of access and clarity given to them into the data centre to monitor power consumption or real-time data gathering. It’s also important for colo data centres to understand that they need a process for DCIM. Without that, DCIM as a tool will not create a process for the business. This is key, as colo data centres expect to achieve full return on investment (ROI) on their DCIM system investment in two to three years or even less.