Data center infrastructure management, or DCIM, software offers a wide range of capabilities organizations can use to improve the efficiency of their operations, as well as their data center infrastructure and design.
Several prominent full DCIM offerings include products from Cormant, FNT Software, Nlyte Software Ltd., Schneider Electric, Sunbird Software Inc. and Vertiv Group Corp.
Before selecting a DCIM product, an organization should assess what capabilities are important to its operation and determine how well each DCIM software vendor provides those functions. The DCIM market has evolved in the past few years to include software with more features and functionality than ever before. Here are several developments to consider:
- Open architecture is critical. Operations of all sizes now use third-party products, primarily for asset tracking and workflow management. Major DCIM tools still provide those capabilities, but users are often more comfortable with products they already use. DCIM adoption and value realization occur more rapidly if an organization can integrate familiar products into its DCIM setup.
- Automated functions reduce personnel workloads. Reliable self-discovery of both IT and power and cooling assets, plus a strong connector library, particularly to RESTful APIs, can result in a more accurate and valuable DCIM system.
- Today's users have different needs. People who have significantly different information needs -- both inside and outside the data center -- are now using DCIM. A wide range of base reports designed for these users becomes even more valuable if they can tailor them to their specific needs.
- DCIM now covers the breadth of modern operations. DCIM must now span entire operations -- from enterprise to cloud, to colocation and edge computing sites -- and provide a window into the full IT and physical power and cooling infrastructures. This requires more than simply adding features.
- DCIM as a disaster planning tool. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the value of DCIM when enormous demands were placed on the IT industry and staff were forced to administer their operations remotely. Systems grew exponentially, but operators couldn't enter their facilities, so they had to rely on remote data. Disaster planning will now consider remote management more seriously than ever before. This makes accurate and wide-ranging asset auto-discovery critical and underscores the significance of comprehensive visualization and full remote information access.
- DCIM security is more important than ever. A DCIM system contains information on virtually every aspect of an IT operation, so protecting that information is as critical as maintaining uptime. When the need for remote access increases, so, too, does the importance of good security. Each DCIM software vendor approaches this security differently, and a good evaluation should assess how well the DCIM security protections mesh with the organization's security standards.
The following overview examines in alphabetical order new or expanded capabilities specific to offerings from six prominent DCIM software vendors.
As pioneering DCIM software, Cormant-CS offers full, 100% network discovery with automatic multinetwork interface card association, update and linking. Real-time and analytics data has been enhanced along the complete power chain, from generator to uninterruptable power supply (UPS) to power distribution unit (PDU).
Cormant-CS integrates cloud services such as AWS to monitor both current and historical usage. It incorporates a new and modern RESTful API with OAuth support and does colocation power data collection, calculation and analysis. This helps providers phase balance loads to do power billing and make usage data visible to customers.
Cormant-CS supports imported floor plans from existing Visio and AutoCAD drawings, JPEG, BMP or as drag-and-drop creations from the extensive asset library. Several new multilevel plan views can drill down from any level to a device, and there are new and updated dashboard widgets for plans, alerts, workflow and trending. The software can analyze the effects of new equipment and provide a ranked list of optional locations for it based on space, power, cooling and other designated restrictions. It can also illustrate power and cable connectivity both graphically and through custom-sorted alphanumeric reports. Cormant-CS can 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.
The software now provides user prompts for report parameters, which simplifies reporting across multiple data centers. Power chain analysis now includes UPSes and breaker loading and can even obtain data from some clamp-on meters. Historical tracking now covers cloud architectures and detailed per-tenant rack and captures and reports billing data. The product also calculates and tracks carbon emissions.
Mobile access now provides online support for the full infrastructure, including workflow and auditing. Offline mobile support is available for Android devices to access all DCIM data from locations where 4G or Wi-Fi aren't available. Security enhancements include end-to-end encryption that has passed military top-secret and financial institution audits.
FNT Command is a modular system that concentrates on five areas: asset and connectivity management, workflow, capacity planning and reporting, discovery and monitoring. However, FNT has changed from product and module terminology to case-based point solution naming that is closer to the customer's use cases. Users can adapt a wide range of out-of-the-box data models to their needs.
FNT Command supports the web-based tools and virtual, cloud and hybrid digital infrastructure software that's often called second-generation DCIM. The company believes organizations should implement and enhance DCIM in small steps to achieve successful adoption. Upgrades expand an organization's ability to document information and communication technology equipment for the entire enterprise, including on-premises to edge and colocation environments, and even telco networks. The focus has been on ease-of-use for everyday tasks in real-life situations, with designs specifically aimed at personnel who don't use the tools daily.
FNT's commitment to open systems design adds more API calls, graphical editing for interfaces and internal bus systems and enables third-party products to easily subscribe to channels. The company has added a RESTful API to its previous Simple Object Access Protocol API for contemporary real-time integration projects and an Extract, Transform, Load tool with graphical modeling for high-volume data synchronization.
FNT's drag-and-drop graphic capability from Visio or AutoCAD drawings offers a new layer concept that enables better, more precise documentation of rooms without raised floors. An alternative function based on a geographic information systems engine enables full campus maps and complex outside plant cable route displays. The software creates what-if scenarios and displays potential locations for prospective equipment on the drawings along with projected effects on power and cooling. FNT can integrate with 6SigmaDCX CFD for extended thermal analysis of room designs.
FNT offers a full range of financial arrangements, including purchase, license, lease or SaaS.
Nlyte is comprised of four main products: Nlyte Enterprise Edition, Nlyte Energy Optimizer, Nlyte Asset Explorer and Nlyte Machine Learning, with a variety of additional connectors and add-ons. Nlyte's functionality supports the entire data center asset lifecycle from dock to decomm. This enables the offering to fully manage assets, as well as monitor the resources those assets consume and the facility in which the infrastructure operates.
Major upgrades to Nlyte DCIM include enhanced open architecture and third-party Veracode Certified security. More tasks and functions are automated, including Nlyte Asset Optimizer. This automatically finds and populates the DCIM Database with available asset and networking information from all network-connected devices, whether communication is two-way or one-way. The asset library details everything from device size and weight to configuration, estimated power draw, cooling load and airflow direction. An expanded connector library lets the DCIM tool provide a cohesive view of the entire computing fabric, from IT and cloud functions, through the power and cooling infrastructure.
This also links building management systems (BMS) and leading IT service management (ITSM) vendors such as ServiceNow, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and BMC Software. Nlyte pushes performance and data failure alerts to smartphones, prioritizing them by alert levels.
New metrics provide insight into things like risk per workload and life and workload relationships of critical assets like batteries. Flexible integration and presentation options provide insight and reporting capabilities beyond the traditional scope of DCIM that organizations can tailor to a wide range of user types, from system administrators to the C-level.
A big enhancement is Nlyte's new partnership with Carrier Global Corp.'s Automated Logic division, which integrates WebCTRL Building Automation System application into the DCIM. Data center personnel can now receive alerts of conditions throughout the building that could affect them, plus facilities and security teams, who normally monitor the BMS, will receive data center-specific information requiring their action. This ensures a more holistic view and management of the operation, within and beyond the walls of the data center.
Organizations can purchase Nlyte's products through renewable license or SaaS. The system is scalable to any size without limits on number of devices or locations. Cost is based on the number of racks the site manages.
Schneider EcoStruxure IT
Schneider Electric has revamped its former StruxureWare DCIM into three compatible packages under its overall EcoStruxure Software and Edge Computing offering. EcoStruxure IT Advisor is essentially Schneider's DCIM system although, the vendor's other offerings combine with it to form a complete DCIM package.
IT Advisor is the vendor-neutral and highly scalable monitoring, planning, modeling and troubleshooting component that's available on premises or as cloud-based SaaS Schneider maintains. The tool is completely vendor-agnostic and integrates with third-party and legacy systems. Though it isn't a network optimization tool, it does monitor connectivity for discovered devices.
Schneider continues to support StruxureWare, but migrating to IT Advisor might reduce the DCIM maintenance workload for existing users or help them gain new functionality, including access to their entire local, cloud and colocation operations from remote devices. A major capability is cooling simulation based on years of data collection that can provide 90% accurate 3D thermal maps without sensors or CFD modeling.
Coupling IT Advisor with EcoStruxure IT Expert provides asset auto-discovery, increased visibility, smart alarming and AI-driven load-balancing assistance. IT Expert is Microsoft Azure cloud-based and provides extensive AI analytics and mobile access from any phone or Android device. This information includes predictions of time before battery replacement, security analytics such as out-of-date security certificates, update status and if standard usernames and passwords still exist.
The third package, EcoStruxure Asset Advisor, provides 24/7 continuous Schneider equipment monitoring via the cloud. This add-on to IT Expert interacts with handheld mobile apps and can track power usage effectiveness for years.
The entire Schneider system supports multiple simultaneous users with strong security control. Contact the vendor directly for pricing information.
Sunbird Software provides a dual path offering: dcTrack DCIM Solution 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.
A major Sunbird upgrade is its universal configuration management database bidirectional connector that enables systems such as ServiceNow and Sunbird's dcTrack to share information. The vendor's automation-via-integration approach provides daily asset management and planning.
Policy-based intelligence compiles and analyzes massive amounts of compute device power consumption data through Power IQ Monitoring, calculating the best budget value for each deployed compute device to minimize stranded power capacity.
Sunbird can automatically create 2D and 3D floor plans and rack elevations. Three-dimensional functionality is rendered on the client side via the web, so it doesn't require application resources to create page views. This also makes the software fast enough to provide an augmented reality experience from live sensor readings that many consider more useful than being on premises. This can be an important capability where remote access becomes necessary.
Sunbird's power chain support now includes DC powering, covering power plant and battery strings to fuse and alarm panels. Data-driven collaboration now enables organizations to display and share dashboard widgets on any browser, SharePoint or wiki page. Expanded asset tracking includes infrastructure subcomponents such as disk drives, memory sticks and network interface controllers, including those items in alerts when stocking levels fall below defined thresholds. Zero-configuration analytics reduce the time it takes to create management reports, providing auto-creation and distribution of all dashboard information. Sunbird also tries to simplify its GUI by minimizing the number of clicks needed for common tasks.
Sunbird's color-coded Health Map and associated Cabinet Inspector tools provide scaled asset and operational representations of the rows and cabinets within the floor map. The DCIM software displays temperature and humidity levels and device status based on availability thresholds and can 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 ASHRAE Thermal Guidelines.
Sunbird's service and support includes free weekly training, a modern support portal and a complete offer of services. Sunbird's DCIM is scalable, with no known limit to the number of cabinets, devices or locations it can monitor. Pricing depends on the number of racks or cabinets the software manages and is available through purchase, license, renewable lease or SaaS.
Vertiv's latest release of the Trellis platform offers enhanced usability and faster ROI. Major updates include a redesigned UI, improved network management, enhanced alarm presentation simplified alarm management and integration of computational tools for performance of what-if scenarios.
As a power and cooling manufacturer, the Vertiv Trellis platform monitors physical infrastructure, and includes asset and inventory management. Electrical online diagrams show the current states of energized and deenergized elements in the power chains, as well as interdependencies upstream and downstream. Vertiv's redesigned dashboard provides greater visibility into its asset management and infrastructure monitoring capabilities and can now integrate with the BMS.
Trellis is compatible with all communication protocols, so it can accept data from every type of sensing device. It can also integrate with third-party ITSM tools and CFD modeling systems. Vertiv Liebert iCom software automatically balances all types of Vertiv air conditioners to thermal requirements, and new 3D heat maps provide visualization for quick response in meeting both power and cooling needs. Vertiv has also made upgrades to its security features, which it maintains and tests regularly.
A guided monitoring setup tool helps to reduce deployment time and effort. Vertiv provides reusable templates for common infrastructures and offers digital twin capabilities. Trellis can connect with the full spectrum of data center assets, working with all protocols on both the facilities and IT sides. Contact the vendor directly for pricing information.