Data Center

Next Generation DCIM: Solving Customer Pain Points and Creating a More Open Ecosystem

At Schneider Electric, we’ve taken a hard look at DCIM and the needs of our customers. I’ve challenged our teams to determine whether DCIM is even relevant in the new hybrid cloud environment. We concluded there is a need, but we believe the traditional set of DCIM tools has major challenges. Our view is that the industry must have a new approach to be successful. We have identified three major pain points and have started resolving them.

two people looking at an ipad in a data center

Pain Point 1: Too hard to get started

Traditionally, it took weeks to deploy a DCIM tool. It is very difficult to get reliable data on these deployments, but we did a deep dive on one specific case: it took a whopping 67 days to install a piece of software intended to help a customer simplify how they manage their infrastructure. This reminds me of the IBM ads from the 1980s, like this classic. The ad emphasized the library of materials provided by IBM to teach you how to use a computer.

Can you imagine having to consult binders of documentation to learn how to use a smartphone in an age when 1 in 4 users will leave a website if it takes more than four seconds to load?

We decided we had to make it easier to get started.

Our new architecture gives customers far more options on how they would like to deploy the software: as an app, as an appliance, as a virtual machine, etc. As a result, we have reduced the 67 days to… a single day. Just 24 hours to get the software up and running. And our teams are driven to make the tools so intuitive that a person can get started on their own, just like with a new phone.

Also, we are moving to a subscription model so customers can avoid a large, upfront capital investment. If a customer wants to start with five devices, they will be able to start with five. If they want to grow to a dozen then retire two devices, it’s not a problem. The SaaS model enables greater flexibility than traditional DCIM.

Additionally, the scalability has no theoretical limit. Whether a customer wants to manage tens, thousands, or tens of thousands of devices, our new cloud architecture makes it possible and much simpler than with traditional tools.

Pain Point 2: Too complex to use and maintain

We believe the DCIM market was driven to implement very high-end features that ultimately only a handful of customers wanted or needed.

Our view is that with the emergence of the hybrid IT environment, DCIM needs to master the basics, such as identifying and managing assets effectively. Additionally, traditional DCIM had only one interface where users could get access to their data. But we believe that no matter where a customer is, or what device they are on, they should be able to access necessary information. We decided to make sure we deliver an outstanding experience with mobile apps and eliminate the need for a VPN.

Additionally, our internal studies concluded that many customers – 30 percent – have trouble keeping software up-to-date. It was too hard to apply the updates.

Pardon another analogy, but it reminds me of upgrading Microsoft Windows in the 1990s. When I had to move from Windows 98 to Windows XP then to Windows Vista… remember that nightmare? I don’t think I am alone here.

Now, every device I can think of automatically updates. Why would DCIM be any different? And, as is commonly understood, applying the latest upgrades is best practice for cybersecurity.

Pain Point 3: Too much information

For years, I’ve heard customers say, “You are giving me too much data and not enough information.”

In the emerging hybrid IT environment, this problem is only getting worse.

We need to make the systems more intuitive and avoid information overload. Our own teams felt this directly when we started using our own tool to manage some customer assets with our service bureau. Our specialists realized that the number of alarms was overwhelming.

Since then, our new architecture has enabled us to apply algorithms to reduce the number of total alarms by 44 percent and, through device alarm consolidation, we reduced individual device alarms from 15 to 1. We couldn’t have accomplished this so quickly or easily with a traditional DCIM tool.

But this is just the beginning. Our view is that solving this pain point requires a next generation DCIM from raw data to smart analytics. Of course, we want to know what happened and why, but the next generation of tools must focus on what will happen and how it can be prevented. And having lots of device data in a data lake enables us to use algorithms and machine learning to keep improving our customer experience.

EcoStruxure IT and the ecosystem of partners

Two years ago, we invested in a shift to a cloud architecture and EcoStruxure IT is now hitting the market. We are convinced that for our customers to realize the full potential of DCIM, it takes this kind of investment and this kind of architecture.

While Schneider Electric will lead in solving the energy consumption challenges of the IT industry, we also recognize we can’t do it alone. As part of a community, we need to enable our ecosystem of partners. To help accomplish this goal, we will be publishing an API before the end of the year so that our customers and partners can leverage our DCIM and connect the data into any system they want.

We’ve concluded that reports of the death of DCIM have been greatly exaggerated. In a hybrid IT environment, DCIM is even more relevant than before but we need to continue to resolve the pain points and anticipate future needs. I believe we are on the right path with EcoStruxure IT.

I encourage you to try it and let me know your thoughts!


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