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Reposition DCIM systems for virtualization, container management

While DCIM tools are still a good way to maintain granular details about IT infrastructure, admins should integrate other, purpose-built tools for heavily virtualized environments.

Traditionally, IT platforms were a collection of physical resources, organized into groups, to carry out specific...

workloads. But virtualization changed all of that, abstracting the logical away from the physical and making it harder to point at specific boxes and state, with conviction, what runs on them. VMs and containers create further complexity, as IT teams view these components as self-contained entities.

These changes have led to other changes at the tools level. Even now, as newer versions of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools cover both physical and virtual environments, something is missing. And for many IT organizations, this means it's better to supplement traditional DCIM systems with other tools purpose-built for virtualized environments.

A changing DCIM systems market -- but buyer beware

Some IT management tools focus solely on the infrastructure. DCIM systems fold in facilities management to offer a more holistic approach, but there are still pieces missing when it comes to virtualization management.

Even though most DCIM tools are engineered to be modular, adopting all modules from one vendor might not be the best option, as it limits flexibility.

The need to deal with more complex IT platforms has forced DCIM vendors to look at what their software does. Most traditional DCIM tools, for example, offer the ability to optimize power utilization through implementing what-if scenarios about the placement of server and storage systems. More modern DCIM systems, such as LogicMonitor and the SolarWinds Orion platform, can monitor VM usage and other metrics related to virtualized environments. Some also offer what-if scenarios that look at the impact of VMs and container movement.

However, massive monolithic DCIM systems could become a major constraint on how an IT platform is run. Even though most DCIM tools are engineered to be modular, adopting all modules from one vendor might not be the best option, as it limits flexibility.

Different environments, different tools

Instead, use a DCIM engine to build and manage a live database of physical system resources and to perform what-if scenarios. Then, look for specific plug-ins for VM and container identification that can then feed those details to the underlying DCIM engine. Look into other, more open tools that can manage VMs and containers as they move across complex environments, including hybrid cloud. For example, systems such as Consul and Anchore focus on container discovery, while Kubernetes and OpenShift provide more advanced features for container management. Before implementation, make sure these modules will work seamlessly with DCIM systems to maintain data veracity and consistency.

To manage virtualized environments -- as well as cloud computing and containers -- IT teams should prioritize flexibility for any infrastructure management system. Container and resource management tools, such as Kubernetes and Apache Mesos, meet many IT needs at the moment, but there will likely be more advanced -- and more intuitive -- tools on the market in the coming years. Ensure that you can easily replace any legacy or current infrastructure management system with an updated one, if needed. Then, when you're ready to implement a new management tool, ensure that all the data from the previous system has fed into the DCIM engine.

Next Steps

To manage containers, use the right tools

Features to look for in your DCIM system

Use DCIM to eliminate zombie servers

This was last published in July 2017

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