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A close look at DCIM software and the broad vendor options

DCIM software addresses a diverse range of data center needs and functions. Learn about the vendors in the market and the accompanying specialties and functions that they offer.

Some DCIM software is tailored to specific functions. Other systems are broader but have specific elements that are better suited to some enterprise needs than others. The best platform could even be a combination of two different products. To understand the best fit for your business's needs, explore these in-depth overviews of some notable DCIM software suites.

Cormant-CS

As one of the earliest data center infrastructure management products, Cormant-CS was the first to incorporate radio frequency identification (RFID) and barcode scanning to simplify the tracking of equipment locations. Now, admins can perform manual entry from mobile devices. The software can analyze the impact of the new equipment and provide a ranked list of optional locations for new equipment based on space, power, cooling and any other designated restrictions. The system illustrates power and cable connectivity both graphically and through custom-sorted alphanumeric reports. Cormant-CS automatically updates the database as changes occur and logs the history with an unlimited archive of historical data.

Cormant-CS can also monitor the network and servers when Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) or direct server connections are available, but network optimization is not a core DCIM function of the Cormant-CS system.

The DCIM system enables customers to add templates, define attributes and add rack images without waiting for the system provider to supply them, which avoids delays during new equipment deployment. Dashboards are fully customizable, and the system can store an unlimited number of data points per component. The system encrypts data end to end and logs all user and administrative actions for full security auditing and tracking. Cormant-CS supports the import of floor plans from existing Visio and AutoCAD drawings, as well as from drag-and-drop creation from the asset library, JPG, BMP and other file formats.

Cormant-CS is one of the only systems that can also integrate into a third-party, full-capability, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling tool, such as Future Facilities' 6SigmaDCX, for complete analysis of cooling performance and impact.

Power and cooling are typically monitored via an SNMP connection or extensible markup language. BACnet and Modbus require third-party IP conversions.

Cormant-CS is licensed by the asset and sold as a perpetual license or SaaS. The vendor offers full deployment methodology along with the software sale, including upfront implementation consulting. They also offer turnkey, fixed price deployments.

FNT Command DCIM

FNT Command is a modular system that concentrates on five areas: asset and connectivity management; workflow; capacity planning and reporting; discovery; and monitoring. The system can display 2D and 3D visualization of the entire data center, including overhead and underfloor views and inside and outside cabling for power, network and storage.

The DCIM software creates what-if scenarios and displays the potential locations for prospective equipment on the drawings, along with the projected effects on power and cooling. Users can build floor plans from existing Visio or AutoCAD drawings, as well as from the asset library, using both the drag-and-drop feature and autocreation. The change management capability can capture asset data manually or automatically through the use of bar code scans or RFID tags.

FNT Command is designed with the goal that users can use the system quickly and develop their own custom fields without support from implementation consulting. Customers can acquire the FNT Command tools separately or modularly.

FNT can acquire the full range of data and calculates and tracks power usage effectiveness (PUE), room temperature and humidity information. However, data analysis; failure alarm delivery; creating electrical and mechanical one-line diagrams; electrical load tracking; phase balance; and alerting to potential equipment failures all require third-party software from an FNT partner.

The product is available under a full range of financial arrangements, including purchase, license, lease or SaaS. Pricing is based on the number of cabinets and locations it monitors.

Intel Data Center Manager

Intel Data Center Manager (DCM) is a plug-in software developer's kit that provides power, thermal and health management for servers, racks, storage devices and other IT equipment in data centers. While DCM measures power and cooling, it also tracks real-time traffic and provides usage data.

Intel DCM scans and adds devices to the database automatically, which allows for quick assembly of a physical model of the data center space. However, users must manually develop 2D floor plans from the extensive server library, making Intel more limited in this capability. The system primarily collects data directly from IT devices on a real-time basis but can gather limited data from intelligent power strips, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems and other power devices that can communicate in SNMP.

Intel DCM displays alarms graphically and prioritizes them in four levels of urgency. Then, it disseminates them via email or SNMP trap. The system retains historical data for up to 365 days.

Intel DCM is licensed based on the nodes it monitors, with an annual maintenance and upgrade fee. The software can monitor 20,000 devices per install, with a portal mode for multiple installs.

LogicMonitor

LogicMonitor is a SaaS-based monitoring tool geared toward midmarket and large enterprises and managed service providers. It focuses mainly on computing and network resources. It can also integrate power and cooling information from third-party sensors, providing a window into the entire data center infrastructure. LogicMonitor auto discovers assets, regularly checks for new or deleted devices and tracks workloads -- a particularly valuable function as users migrate from legacy to new architectures.

There are no Capex costs, no additional data center hardware and no overhead for upgrades. Further, the SaaS-based platform keeps functioning through a data center outage, ensuring that IT teams continue to have full access to alerts and information. Connectivity protocols include the full range of IT communications (IP, SNMP, Java Management Extensions, Windows Management Instrumentation, etc.). Electrical load monitoring; phase balance; room and rack temperature; and humidity and internal operational parameters from power and cooling equipment are available via these protocols, but not through industry-standard mechanical equipment protocols, such as Modbus and BACNet.

LogicMonitor is available as an annually licensed subscription model and offers a free 14-day trial so users can test in their own environments.

Nlyte Software

Nlyte is comprised of four main products: Nlyte Enterprise, Nlyte Energy Optimizer, Nlyte Audit and Nlyte Goods Receiving. Nlyte's longevity in the DCIM business has resulted in robust functionality that supports the entire data center asset lifecycle. This allows the platform to fully manage assets, as well as monitor the resources consumed by those assets and the environment in which the infrastructure operates.

The Nlyte system database includes an extensive manufacturer collection of racks, cabinets, servers, storage devices, UPS, power distribution and cooling systems. The asset library details everything from device size and weight to configuration, estimated power draw, cooling load and airflow direction. Users can manually update the database and record drawings or update them through autodiscovery using bar code scans, RFID tags or direct information from IT devices.

Nlyte also offers prebuilt connectors to systems that depend on DCIM information, such as building management systems or leading IT service management vendors, such as ServiceNow, HPE and BMC. This ensures that DCIM information is current and that other systems are also up to date. Nlyte pushes performance data and failure alerts to smartphones, prioritizing them by alert levels and recipients who can drill down remotely to any level.

Users can create and import 2D and 3D floor plans and rack elevations into the asset library from Visio or AutoCAD. The system can monitor any third-party power or cooling device using any of the industry protocols -- SNMP, Modbus and BACNet -- and can create both electrical and mechanical one-line diagrams from the database, as well as graphically display failure points.

Users can either purchase each product or acquire the products through renewable license or SaaS. Cost is based on the number of racks it manages. The system is scalable to any size without limits on number of devices or locations.

Norlinx Global Site Management

Norlinx Systems Global Site Management (GSM) software suite consists of four levels of products. Each version includes all of the GSM capabilities but varies in size, capacity and degree of sophistication. GSMpowerlite is the base product. It is available for free and provides entry-level functionality. At the other end of the spectrum is GSMenterprise, which includes every feature, tool and capability of Norlinx. In between are two other gradations. GSMessential provides rack and floor visual elevations, as well as asset and capacity management; GSMprofessional further adds port and electrical management, as well as the mobile app. Norlinx has also recently released GSMcustom, which enables users to purchase individual features.

Norlinx is the only DCIM software that uses Microsoft Visio as the GUI for 2D floor plans, rack elevations and asset management. Norlinx has also added real-time monitoring, alerting and reporting capabilities to its functionality. Users can import floor plans from existing Visio files, AutoCAD files or files created from the asset library.

The software provides an import tool to automatically populate devices and power gear from an Excel spreadsheet. Circuit metering is via Modbus, JavaScript Object Notation and SNMP, supported natively or through integration via custom software. Users can currently create electrical and cabling diagrams manually, but they expect to release automatic generation of electrical one-lines within a year. It can illustrate power alerts graphically on the diagrams and provide PUE calculations both live and historically, with no inherent limit on archive duration. As with most DCIM products, Norlinx GSM is not a network monitoring and optimization tool, nor does it measure internal parameters directly from IT equipment.

Norlinx GSM is typically sold as a one-time purchase, which includes updates for the first year, but requires annual renewals for technical support.

Schneider Electric StruxureWare

StruxureWare's greatest strength is monitoring and controlling the physical side of the data center. As a power and cooling manufacturer, StruxureWare consists of two major platforms: Data Center Operation and Data Center Expert. The Data Center Operation package provides inventory management, capacity planning, power path management, network connectivity, cooling and airflow simulation, workflow processes and reports. Data Center Expert is the modeling tool that provides device discovery and monitoring. The DCIM software uses SNMP, Modbus TCP, Schneider's proprietary NetBotz and a variety of other protocols but does not currently support BACnet. The tool is completely vendor-agnostic and seamlessly integrates third-party and legacy systems. It is not a network optimization tool but does monitor connectivity for discovered devices.

The product comes with an Excel importer that can create rack elevations from the database assets, which you can auto track using bar code scans or RFID tags, if you incorporate and auto track the ancillary devices all the way from order placement to change logging. It can also create room plans and rack elevations from the library via drag-and-drop, or it can import layers from AutoCAD. Visio does not support the scaling accuracy of StruxureWare, so it is not compatible. An integrated CFD tool in Data Center Operation's capacity module is unique to StruxureWare. While it provides only basic modeling capability, it illustrates general cooling effectiveness and cable connectivity without the need for a third-party CFD package.

Colocation clients can log in and see their basic information, edit rack layouts and set asset parameters through a web client and Tenant Portal, a subset of Data Center Operation.

StruxureWare supports multiple simultaneous users with strong security control. With the optional energy efficiency license, users can track PUE for years.

StruxureWare is available as a perpetual license for modules or monitored devices or on a renewable yearly lease. Depending on the financial approach, there could be a monthly or yearly fee for maintenance and upgrades.

SolarWinds Orion Platform

SolarWinds Orion Platform specializes in network and systems performance monitoring. Its purpose is to report system data, provide early alerts to troubles, diagnose and fix network problems, optimize performance and ensure efficient use of systems by identifying underused resources and alerting when others will be out of capacity. Capabilities include network traffic analysis, configuration and virtualization management, as well as server, application, storage resource and web performance monitoring.

SolarWinds Orion Platform focuses on network and systems performance monitoring. It has an intuitive interface and provides visibility from the network to servers, virtualized hosts, storage systems and applications, whether on premises or in the cloud.

The SolarWinds Orion Platform automatically discovers infrastructure and applications and provides dependency mapping. The system is highly modular -- users can pick devices and monitoring preferences and add them to the platform. However, the database is limited to servers, storage devices and network appliances.

The DCIM software modules are available for purchase based on the number of network nodes and monitored components. Buyers can download, install and configure it for initial use in less than two hours and fully customize it in a few days. The installation is entirely local, which prevents information going back to SolarWinds.

Sunbird Software

Sunbird Software has a dual-path offering. DcTrack DCIM Operations covers the day-to-day asset management and planning requirements, while Power IQ DCIM Monitoring does all the active polling and event handling. Together, these systems cover virtually everything, except full network monitoring.

Sunbird's models library includes over 30,000 preconfigured equipment templates from a wide range of manufacturers, with pictures of actual equipment. Users can use the relevant models in their current state or clone and modify them to create their own corporate library. They can also request that new models be included in Sunbird's routine monthly updates that keep the materials library current.

Sunbird can auto create 2D and 3D floor plans and rack elevations. It renders 3D functionality on the client side via the web, so it doesn't require application resources to create page views, which makes it fast enough to provide an augmented reality experience from live sensor readings.

Sunbird's color-coded Health Map and associated Cabinet Inspector provide scaled asset and operational representations of the rows and cabinets within the floor map. The DCIM displays temperature and humidity levels and device status based on availability thresholds, with the ability to drill down to identify and resolve threshold conditions. Sunbird also has a patented cooling chart that helps achieve compliance with manufacturers' and industry-accepted recommendations, such as the ASHRAE Thermal Guidelines.

Sunbird's DCIM dashboard contains over 65 prebuilt charts and widgets that measure a wide variety of key performance indicators, including rollups, trend charts and analytics. Users can customize their own business intelligence reports, charts and widgets in a single view. They can create multiple versions of their dashboards, select which one to view or start a slideshow to view all or selected displays.

Pricing depends on the number of racks or cabinets the software manages. Sunbird's DCIM is scalable, with no known limit to the number of cabinets, devices or locations that it can monitor, and is available through purchase, license, renewable lease or SaaS.

Vertiv Trellis

As a power and cooling manufacturer, the Vertiv Trellis platform has significant capability in monitoring the physical infrastructure and includes robust asset and inventory management.

Trellis is compatible with all communication protocols, so it can accept data from every type of sensing device. Trellis recently integrated Vertiv iCOM software, which can automatically balance all types of Vertiv air conditioners to thermal requirements. Trellis can also create 3D thermal heat maps from multiple internal and external sensor readings.

Electrical one-line diagrams show the current states of energized and de-energized elements in the power chains, as well as interdependencies upstream and downstream. The platform displays notifications on diagrams and 3D floor plans via colorization and prioritizes them depending on criticality. It can import floor plans and rack elevations from Visio or AutoCAD, as well as perform automatic asset tracking via bar codes or RFID tags.

The Trellis platform provides a comprehensive set of REST APIs for automation, interoperability and visibility into the data center, including real-time communication with smartphones and tablets.

Vertiv offers the bundled Quick Start Solutions for organizations with smaller-scale DCIM goals that can use an off-the-shelf package at lower cost. Vertiv provides Trellis modules via user license, based on the number of floor-mounted devices, including racks, cabinets, air conditioners and UPS systems.

Editor's note

TechTarget editors selected these vendors after doing extensive research into top market shareholders and determining which vendors best fit the presented buying criteria. The featured DCIM software vendors either cover or specialize in the following capabilities: asset tracking and management, power and cooling optimization, alarms and what-if reporting and security. Our research included reports from Gartner and data from TechTarget surveys.

Next Steps

The role of DCIM software in today's data centers

How to analyze the DCIM tool options on the market

Comparing DCIM vendors and the different capabilities they offer

This was last published in August 2017

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