In an enterprise, the information technology function actually should be viewed as a service. In essence, the value of IT comes from what it can deliver for business functions like sales, marketing, product development, or supply chain.
CIOs and other IT executives have long recognized this service role IT plays, which is why a methodology for IT service provision—the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)—has been adopted by so many IT organizations. ITIL—which can be thought of a set of best practices for continuous IT service improvement—has been a way of ensuring and enabling a better IT service for the business. But ITIL has its limitations.
On their own, ITIL methods have not been able to bridge the gap between facilities and IT. Historically, facilities managers have had their own set of systems to manage buildings and related infrastructure vital to data centers such as power, cooling and physical security assets, while IT organizations used separate systems to manage IT assets.
The gap between these two domains is starting to close, but obstacles remain, including a lack of common ground when it comes to terminology, processes and systems. ITIL is a case in point. How many facilities managers are ITIL experts? Probably some are familiar with it, but few are ITIL experts. Conversely, how many IT managers know the details of the building management systems for the structures where their data centers reside? To ensure better IT service, we need a way to bridge such gaps.
The stakes for an integrated approach are higher than ever. In today’s data center environments featuring blade servers and virtualization, we have a much more “dense” and dynamic computing profile. This density and dynamism calls for a power and cooling infrastructure that’s modular and thus more flexible, and whose management tools are integrated to IT systems management information to make adjustments on the fly.
This is where data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software comes into play as the bridge between the two historically isolated domains. Because of the ability of DCIM suites to hook into IT systems management software, help desk systems, and virtualization platforms, power and cooling can be managed in concert with IT infrastructure. By having this DCIM-enabled bridge in place, ITIL best practices would improve.
Take capacity planning and management, for instance. To its credit, capacity management has been an area of focus within ITIL. Companies with solid ITIL efforts don’t just slap new servers into a data center, they plan for how those servers will be managed and serviced over time. But because of the lack of integration to the power and cooling side, capacity management under ITIL isn’t designed to manage effectively for power and cooling as it has for IT assets. With DCIM, capacity management now can be holistic, planning for power and cooling needs concurrent with IT capacity requirements.
This is true for other ITIL focus areas like problem, change and performance management they work better when ITIL teams have access to DCIM tools. With the increasingly dynamic IT loads brought about by virtualization, being able to ensure a high level of performance from data centers requires the ability to manage and troubleshoot all infrastructure concurrently. With DCIM, managers performing a problem root cause analysis might discover, for instance, that an older, room-based chiller unit simply isn’t flexible and precise enough to meet the dynamic loads of a virtualized environment or being able to support high density IT equipment.
Because of DCIM’s ability to serve as the bridge or glue between facilities and IT systems and processes, we could soon be reaching a time when for most people in an organization, DCIM becomes a more important term than ITIL. DCIM will be recognized as the foundation that squeezes more performance, i.e., to better service the business, out of its data centers.
After all, not many line of business people are going to know what an “IT infrastructure library” is or what it does. But we all know what a data center is critical, and we all want an efficient, high level of performance out of our data centers. So because DCIM is the glue that can get service to the next level, and because its name is more straightforward, I predict that DCIM will become the widely recognized term in the long run.
Monikers aside, all that really matters is that the level of service from our data centers and our IT assets will and should improve, who doesn’t want that?. And as CIOs and other IT leaders well know, DCIM and ITIL are not competing platforms. ITIL’s objectives will be more achievable because of DCIM, simply because DCIM is the platform that brings facilities and IT together, ensuring an improvement in the service delivery to the business.