In my dealings with small and medium sized businesses, it’s clear to me they can get great value from a category of management software that many of them never consider: data center infrastructure management (DCIM).
SMBs share many of the same characteristics as their enterprise counterparts that drive the need for DCIM tools. They have limited IT resources at many locations (and sometimes none), an increased demand for availability from end users along with more and more devices to manage, from laptops to iPads and smart phones. They are also dealing with the same wave of new technology, including unified communications. Last time I checked, about 73% of medium-sizes businesses were employing UC along with about a third of small businesses. And like any enterprise, SMBs are also big on virtualization technology, with some 60% of them employing it.
At the same time, many SMBs suffer from a lack of dedicated IT space. They often have servers and communications gear in closets that are shared for other purposes, such as storage. In smaller offices, it’s not unusual for IT equipment to be just sitting out in the open.
With this kind of environment, and given the relative lack of IT personnel, SMBs often have glaring problems that they only learn about the hard way – when something goes wrong. DCIM tools could help them in various ways.
For one, it would give them context and awareness to make more informed decisions. If someone plugs something in to a server room and electrical consumption suddenly jumps way up, the DCIM system would alert them – perhaps before it caused a server outage.
With respect to virtualization, DCIM enables SMBs to see the dependencies, in terms of which virtual machines live on which servers. Even if they only have a couple dozen VMs, that’s valuable information that can help them understand exactly what the repercussions might be in the event of a server failure, or changes to power and cooling.
DCIM also provides greater visibility for the organization in general, not just IT. It can produce reports that spell out in clear terms what problems exist and what the business impact will be if the issues are not corrected.
With DCIM tools, SMBs can also conduct what-if scenarios. If the business is buying new equipment, DCIM can help determine the best place to install it from a power and cooling perspective. Similarly, if the building landlord wants to make some changes to the building AC, the SMB can determine what kind of effect that might have on its IT environment – as opposed to taking a wait-and-see approach as many do today.
Security is another issue. DCIM systems come with monitoring tools that can send alerts when unauthorized people are in a server room, for example, as well as when temperatures or humidity levels are at or nearing thresholds. That kind of information is invaluable for companies that have servers in offices or locations with no IT personnel.
DCIM tools – at least those from Schneider Electric – are also highly modular and scalable. That means an SMB can start small, with just a module or two to address their most pressing concerns, and add on over time as business needs demand.
It’s time that SMBs got on board with DCIM software, and start finding out what many of their enterprise counterparts already know.