The future of data center infrastructure management [Q&A]

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Recent research from Intel suggests that, despite the availability of automated solutions for data center infrastructure management (DCIM), many businesses are still using manual procedures to do their capacity planning and forecasting.

To get an insider perspective on how managers can better exploit the benefits of DCIM products to streamline their operations we spoke to Jeff Klaus, General Manager of Intel Data Center Solutions.

BN: According to your recent research, 40 percent of data center managers still use manual processes to conduct capacity planning and forecasting. Why is this number so high?

JK: This number is indeed high, however data center managers are not happy with using manual methods today but are doing so because of a lack of good and simple solutions that can provide them accurate data to help them automate their manual processes. Among main barriers for DCIM adoption, current solutions are expensive, complex, and not easy to use by the end users, which all contribute to why this number is still very high.

BN: Does this show that the benefits of DCIM solutions are failing to get across?

JK: DCIM adoption appears to be slower than predicted and this should be a wake-up call for the solutions providers. We all would like to see broader DCIM adoption by end users in 2016, but for that to happen, DCIM vendors will need to listen to their customers, address their key concerns, including power and thermal management, and ways to automate manual processes, and do a better job in articulating and proving DCIM solution value and ROI for the end user. The vendors will also need to address general concerns related to their solutions, like lower costs, simplifying the solutions, and investing in its ease of use. We're still very optimistic about DCIM as the data center managers clearly say they need such tools, it’s just a matter of listening to them and providing them the right solution that will help them better manage their infrastructure and help them automate the manual processes that currently take up 40-60 percent of their time.

BN: Why should companies consider DCIM if they haven't already?

JK: Companies' need for DCIM is still there and challenges in managing the complex infrastructure today are not going to disappear. They will actually get more complex as IT devices continue to add telemetry. Thus, companies still need to evaluate tools and solutions that will help them better manage their infrastructure, automate manual processes, improve their capacity planning and provisioning process, improve their agility, improve thermal profile in their datacenters, identify and predict power and thermal issues, and improve datacenter efficiency. DCIM vendors are also aware to the slow adoption of their solutions and better understand the customers’ needs and concerns today. They’re constantly improving their solutions, ensuring they solve their customers’ problems, making them simpler and easier to use and maintain, and even lowering the solution cost.

BN: Are you seeing DCIM moving into new industries and how are they benefiting from the technology?

JK: I think that most DCIM vendors realize the importance of granular and accurate data as part of their solution, regardless of the industry. The solution can have great 3D layout and strong analytics features, however, if the data it visualizes or analyzes is not accurate then the result is not good or compelling for the customer. Luckily, the hardware vendors realized their customers’ needs 5-7 years ago, and since then we see more and more intelligent devices that can report accurate metrics related to their power consumption, thermals, utilization, airflow, and more. I expect that this year we'll see more DCIM vendors listen to their customers and integrate such technologies as part of their solutions, provide accurate data and analytics to their customers, and allow them to automate their current manual processes which will help the technology penetrate new industries and obtain broader adoption.

BN: What changes will we see in the DCIM marketplace in 2016?

JK: We will continue to see some consolidation in this market and expect to see a few exits and merges occur. The vendors who will stay are the ones that react to their customers' requirements and make the required changes in their solutions to fit their customers’ needs. We will also see continued price decline and, hopefully, simplified solutions that are easier to deploy, use, and maintain.

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