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When DCIM met ITSM

DCIM delivers results, but ITSM integration makes it even more valuable

There is no question that data center infrastructure management has been recognized as a valuable piece of the data center puzzle. However the fact that DCIM encompasses everything from point solutions to full-blown management consoles means that there are many different ways to approach DCIM, as well as methodologies to integrate it into larger hardware/software management and ITSM solutions.

Information is key to successful IT management and that is exactly what DCIM solutions deliver. With current generation technologies there is a significant amount of instrumentation available that can be utilized to provide detailed information about your data center infrastructure. But it is easy to get lost in the minutia; making use of all the available data is a noble goal, but realistically, determining which sources deliver information that can be acted upon in a practical fashion can be difficult. Making that information usable and relating it to other data derived from your IT infrastructure is where the real value lies.



Source: CommScope

Tools of the trade

One of the biggest problems when dealing with the wealth of DCIM solutions is trying to figure out how to integrate them with your existing IT management tools, especially since DCIM tools often cross the divide between traditional IT and facilities management.

DCIM vendors have started to address this issue by providing entire suites of tools and services, while some are offering direct connections to major IT management platforms from vendors such as HP and BMC. The tools don’t address organizational issues related to the division of IT and facilities responsibilities, but they do allow IT to get a real world view of critical infrastructure issues that can potentially impact data center performance.

With the historical separation between IT and facilities, IT departments have often been completely insulated from facilities issues, regardless of their impact on IT. With growing operational costs, this has become an impractical way to run a data center, and tighter integration between facilities and IT means increased value in DCIM, ITSM and traditional IT management tools.

Smaller DCIM vendors are disadvantaged by the lack of integration with larger management systems and often seem blinded by the abilities of their own point solutions. When asked how they plan to integrate with other tools or large-scale management systems, the responses most often look to place the responsibility on the customer. Offering just SNMP information doesn’t cut it anymore, and the very common response “we have an open API” is equivalent to saying “you need to write code to integrate our product with what you use, or pay us to do that for you.” Neither answer builds confidence in the potential user.

To a large extent, this is why the technologies of DCIM and IT service management are converging. Once users got their hands on DCIM tools they realized that the data they delivered would be invaluable in better refining their ITSM processes and procedures. Ad hoc and makeshift integration between the two technologies demonstrated the value of this approach. And with their customers demanding a tighter integration between tools, vendors are responding all the way up the process chain.

Hardware vendors are actively working with DCIM vendors to provide the hooks necessary to deliver information about their products. DCIM vendors are taking that data, organizing it, and feeding it to integrated ITSM solutions. The ITSM solutions can then be used to better analyze service delivery and determine the most effective ways to deploy, configure, and mage the IT load within the data center.

To skin a cat

Different technology vendors have taken different approaches to delivering integrated DCIM/ITSM solutions to their customers. CA Technologies, who got started in the DCIM business in 2012 with CA Data Center Infrastructure Management product, has been integrating it and other products into its full blown management tool, CA Unified Infrastructure Management.

Rather than releasing a single package, CA has approached it as a process; slowly integrating DCIM tools into its primary product, allowing existing customers of its Unified Management tools to add not only CA DCIM but a range of third-party products as well. CA has also enabled customers who are using third-party hosting services that deploy CA DCIM to receive the data from that host through their own CA management tools.

This approach gives customers a number of choices to make along the way, and allows for a staged implementation of the end-to-end solution. By not requiring the use of CA products at every level, the company has enabled users of the CA Unified Infrastructure Management to maximize their existing investment in management and operational software tools.

Schneider Electric, which produces a suite of datacenter management tools under the name StruxureWare for Data Centers, took the view that it needed to provide its tools with a better look further up the stack, and into VMs and applications running on the hardware that their DCIM products could already see. To this end it worked with HP’s Composable Infrastructure Partners Program.



Source: Schneider Electric

Schneider’s integration with HP OneView Advanced means that the automatic asset identification and analysis data that OneView acquires when a new device is added to the network is passed down to the StruxureWare software. This means customers can see information derived from both products; the operational status of the server hardware in situ with related data center information, giving them a more detailed look into, and control of, their data center environment.

A different approach was taken by CommScope, which chose to partner with HP’s Converged Management Consulting Services. In this environment, HP uses the CommScope iTRACS DCIM solution to deliver those services to customers looking to build DCIM into their HP infrastructure. With the consulting business approach, HP customers are provided with what the team thinks are the most appropriate solutions for the project, based on the project needs and the tools available through HP.

Nlyte software has taken the most aggressive approach to integrating DCIM with ITSM. On its own, the company has developed a connector framework and now offers direct integration of its DCIM software with the three most common ITSM offerings. It has productized three editions of its own solution into Nlyte for HP ITSM, Nlyte for BMC ITSM, and Nlyte for ServiceNow ITSM. It has also developed framework infrastructure to allow rapid integration with any ITSM platform currently on the market. Nlyte claims that the process can be completed in days, rather than more common month’s long projects to build this type of integration.

Regardless of the approach taken, it is clear that DCIM and ITSM are on convergent paths. Eventually customers will be able to deploy end-to-end solutions that combine the features of both technical approaches. It is most likely that future products will be integrated modular tools rather than large, monolithic applications, but the end result will be a combined delivery of information from both facilities and IT points of view.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Hi David, good article and we certainly agree about the vital important of the DCIM/ITSM marriage. Yes, CommScope iTRACS has a compelling partnership with HP but please be aware that iTRACS also has a strong portfolio of pre-built integrations (connectors) fueled by our DCIM Open Exchange Framework™ developed several years ago by our team in Tempe, AZ. The Framework leverages open standards and protocols to foster rapid integrations with ITSM, power, environmental, IT, and other systems. I'd be happy to share more about our DCIM platform with you if you'd like to chat. Please be aware our next major iTRACS release is scheduled for later this year. It will include a number of important enhancements to our DCIM software suite. Would you like to learn more? Just let me know. Thanks and best regards, Willie Bloomstein, Director of Strategic and Solutions Marketing, CommScope,

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  • Great article. If you take DCIM and integrate it with ITSM you end up with Data Center Service Management. This is the end game for DCIM vendors. The more you can tie DCIM to the mainstream organization ITSM/ITIL processes, the more transparent and valuable you'll make DCIM. Ultimately DCIM will be absorbed into the suite of ITSM tools.

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  • Hi David,

    While I like the premise of your article, to me, as an insider, it is a bit misleading. One of the funny things to me is that some of the companies you mention tout capabilities they are not remotely capable of delivering on, which remains one of the failures of the entire DCIM market to date; too many half truths and deceptive marketing practices by these larger companies with large marketing machines (such as the list of companies you refer to) have caused many large companies looking for effective DCIM solutions to be extremely skeptical (righteously) of proposed DCIM solutions.

    For example, we had a CA account executive interviewing with us last week and I had some time alone with him. He was quite clear that CA Technologies suite of products is mostly comprised of bastardized pieces of software purchased from other companies which do not work well with one another and that they have difficulties implementing "total" solutions. While we have a modular platform as well at FNT Solutions, every piece of this software was written by FNT developers over the last 20 years.

    The point is, CA is trying to make it seem to the world at large as if these companies they are working with only have to buy the pieces of software which are truly needed and then they can add on other modules later, when the truth is, only some of their programs work well, and even less of them work well together so they HAVE to go slowly and integrate one piece at a time, because the integration of THEIR OWN products is sometimes a substantial challenge for them, that they DON"T WANT to integrate many of these pieces at the same time even if they could! Not a bad marketing strategy, but certainly not reality!

    As for iTracs, please don't let me get started. With the 40-50 employees they have, they can barely implement their own software and they cannot react quickly if more than 1 customer at a time has a significant request (we have been told this by a former client of theirs who no longer uses their software due to false promises). Also, the "amazing" cabling chain/signal trace which they had as their main graphic on their old website (pre-commscope) for touting their capabilities in this arena were so overblown that it was laughable....actually, it wasn't even functional, it was a pipe dream in development!!!

    Now, to the heart of the matter. Some of these companies have developed products by tying themselves to other companies, as you have mentioned, but they do not function as wonderfully or wholly as you suggest.

    For example, while some of these tools do work and can show you perhaps the racks, where the components are within those racks, and even the power being consumed by these devices.....but can they tell you what software is running on those servers?

    Also, let's say a co-location provider is trying to complete a cross-connection efficiently. Can any of these tools provide an auto-routed path from one room to another, between multiple floors, or between different DC's in different cities? What I mean is, if a colo has an A-customer to be connected with a Z-customer, can any of these tools provide one (or multiple) paths through the infrastructure by identifying free ports in available patch panels to connect these routes? Can they produce a step by step work with workflow processes to support it? Or, let's say outside of someone's data center that a back hoe digs up a tray filled with fiber optic cables. Can these tools show you what services were cut and for which customers? Can they tell you what the re-routing possibilities are available to minimize service interruption? My point is, via marketing channels it is made to look as if this holistic view of combining DCIM & ITSM is much further along than it really is, especially when you are talking about system integrations (SOAP, REST, ETL tools, etc...) between the "Power" based tools and the "ITSM" based tools.

    As for Nlyte saying that they can complete these integrations in days...bwahahahahahahaha.

    At the end of the day the intent of my comment to you here was not to berate you, your article, my competition or to sound childish and hurt that my company wasn't mentioned in it, but rather to let you know how much BS these big marketing DCIM/ITSM providers are sending your way! It is this continued misrepresentation which does our industry more harm then is akin to the AT&T marketing campaign about how great their coverage is and how they have the most bars when everyone knows that Verizon has the best service in this country.

    What I mean is, when I read your article and the messages that are being fed to you by these companies, it seems they are trying to do the same exact thing; find out what the analysts are saying is bad about them/their services and then start a marketing campaign that says that is actually what they are great at!

    Anyway, thank you for your article(s), I do enjoy them and I learn from them one way or another!! :o)

    Have a good day.

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  • I have to agree with Jason, the world of DCIM has been plagued by large organizations creating hype and marketing around "part baked" solutions. How many failed DCIM implementations are in the market today? How many companies have purchased DCIM yet to actually see any ROI or real benefits? Most of these solutions focus on the "bells and whistles" yet neglect developing some of the basic functionality that should be used on a daily basis by DC operations teams. Blinded by the light of big marketing campaigns and flashy 3D images but with little substance.

    Its time someone had the balls to do an article about the Hype and smoke & mirrors of the industry to really unveil some truths that the industry and companies need..

    Great work highlighting this Jason..

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  • Nice Article! Nlyte Software can help organizations drive down costs and improve SLAs for their IT Service Management. I've worked with the tools for over 2yrs and it's been nothing but helpful.

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  • Quite a good read..
    puts into perspective the deal between DCIM & ITSM

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