Federal Data Centers, DCOI and DCIM

September 21, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

datacenterYesterday, Energy Manager Today posted on the advantages of finding and better managing data center servers that are under-utilized or not doing any constructive work at all. Today, another important data center topic will be discussed: Compliance with the U.S. government’s Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI).

The DCOI, which requires the installation of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software, took effect on August 1. As the name implies, it is a government-wide initiative aimed at saving energy and other resources by condensing and in some cases eliminating data centers. What also is clear is that the process of doing that – both from the perspectives of what experts learn and the tools that are developed – will be invaluable to anyone who runs a data center, not just those whose paychecks are signed by Uncle Sam.

Mark Gaydos, the Chief Marketing Officer for Nlyte Software, told Energy Manager Today that the goal is economy. “It’s all about increasing the utilization, increasing the density, increasing the number of servers used virtually [and other efficiency steps],” he said.

DCIM is the main tool in DCOI compliance. TechNavio said that the market for this software in the Americas will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 12 percent and reach $888 million by 2020. The leading vendors worldwide are Nlyte, CommScope, Emerson Network Power, Schneider Electric, Sunbird Software and Panduit, according to TechNavio.

Anthony Bonaventura, the government director at Raritan, provided an overview of DCOI at GNC. He wrote that it focuses on energy metering; power usage effectiveness (PUE); virtualization; server utilization and automated monitoring and facility utilization. PUE targets must be met and DCIM software in use by the end of fiscal year 2018, he wrote.

DCIM plays a pivotal role, according to Bonaventura:

The real strength of DCIM is analyzing real-time and historical views of a data center’s health. DCIM offers an understanding of how electricity is being consumed in data centers — all along the power chain — and by each server.  It monitors environmental conditions, and lets data center managers know how much power capacity is available in an aisle or cabinet.  DCIM dashboards also improve visibility of all the moving parts — and dependencies — of distributed infrastructures.

DCIM clearly has a big job to do and, thus, there are a lot of different packages to choose from. Gaydos, whose company offers DCIM software, offered eight tips that data centers should keep in mind when shopping for software:

  • Make sure, quite simply, that all areas of DCOI – the five referenced above by Bonaventura – are included in any software offering.
  • Ensure that software will be viable for the period that the software will be used. It must deal with technical refreshes, capacity changes, migrations and consolidations. “Data centers are managed from soup to nuts,” Gaydos said. “You want to make sure that vendors cover the entire lifecycle.”
  • Dealing with “the feds” is different than other areas of business. It is prudent, Gaydos said, to find a vendor who has experience in this unique area.
  • Vendors often have a main line of business and dabble in others in the hopes that they eventually develop into a profit center. Data center managers should be careful if DCIM isn’t the vendors main line of work. Such products may be discontinued or the company simply may not have the same level of expertise as those who put DCIM center stage.
  • Data center don’t rely on one vendor’s equipment. There is a virtual certainty that many will be represented. Thus, it is important to find software that is “hardware agnostic,” in Gaydos’ words.
  • It also is clear that data centers change over time. Thus, the DCIM suit should be tied into any change management software that the organization is using.
  • Security always is a concern. Thus, it is important to use DCIM software that has been certified by an outside organization as safe. Veracode fills this role for NIyte, Gaydos said.
  • Quite simply, make sure that the software’s user interface (UI) employs terms and basic definitions that are familiar to data center personnel. In short, DCOI is a very important program and DCIM software is key. A generic or poorly designed UI is not optimal.

It is fair to assume that the points of interest that a CMO raises are those that, at the end of the day, points back to the product he or she represents. However, Gaydos’ list seems objective enough to be useful to federal data center managers preparing for the new requirements – or those not covered by the rules who want to consolidate.

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