Many DCIM Vendors Not Keeping Up with Customers

Corporations and telcos increasingly depend on datacenters to support public or private cloud platforms, leading analysts to wonder whether management software designed to support those datacenters is capable of keeping up.

Growth in sales of high-end datacenter-management software could explode during the next few years as growth in cloud computing increases the number, size, and complexity of datacenters supporting it, according to a new report from research firm Heavy Reading. That means vendors of Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software could miss their market opportunity.

The growth of cloud services and the datacenters that support them could leap from an estimated $450 million this year to $1.7 billion by 2016—but only if vendors are able to adapt their products to manage virtual as well as physical datacenter assets, while scaling their products to accommodate the telco datacenters supporting public cloud services, according to Heavy Reading research analyst (and report author) Martin Courtney.

“The DCIM landscape is extremely turbulent,” he wrote in the report. “Some vendors are on the verge of bankruptcy, others are seemingly in hibernation until economic conditions improve and the rest jostling within a series of alliances, acquisitions and new market entries, and all [are] fighting for market share in an increasingly volatile commercial arena.”

Properly implemented, DCIM software could be a tremendous help to datacenter managers under increasing pressure to keep their facilities running at peak operational and cost-efficiency, according to the report. Penetration of DCIM software into corporate datacenters is still in single-digit percentages, however, because barriers to entry and uncertain benefits leave many datacenter managers satisfied doing their asset management with an Excel spreadsheet rather than software actually designed to monitor and manage datacenters.

Until now, the main problems have been the high cost to buy and deploy DCIM software, the difficulty of integrating most DCIM products with the datacenters they’re meant to manage, and the logistical challenge of installing, configuring and using them.

DCIM could play an important role in the growth and transition to mixed internal- and external cloud platforms, but have not yet adapted to the two primary requirements of tapping into the potential growth area of their own market: managing virtual assets and scaling to meet the high-end requirements of telcos  providing IaaS, PaaS and SaaS workloads to corporate customers.

DCIM software tends to treat management of the physical environment of a datacenter with the IT within it as a single process with a single set of requirements, according to a 2012 IDC vendor-comparison study.

The IT functions of corporate datacenters have evolved rapidly to accommodate requirements such as cloud computing, outsourcing, hosting and colocation as well as traditional functions—areas in which DCIM software is typically weak. “There’s a growing need, and opportunity, for DCIM vendors to step in and seamlessly orchestrate space, power, and cooling with changing IT system requirements,” according to Michelle Bailey, the IDC datacenter analyst who served as lead author of the report.

In January of 2012, when the report was published, DCIM vendors were divided into those who served large-scale datacenters well but were difficult to use or implement, and those that were easy to deploy and manage but only addressed the needs of small- and mid-sized datacenters. By June of this year, a similar IDC comparison of DCIM vendors found that many of the products were still difficult to use or deploy, and that they had only minimally addressed new datacenter requirements such as mobile-device asset- and network management, cloud-based services and operating platforms, big-data analytics or social networks.

The best DCIM offers a variety of datacenter management processes, including change management, capacity planning, asset allocation and environmental management; moreover, it’s built on an open architecture that allows management data to filter up from component management applications and down from enterprise- or cloud-management systems, according to the 2013 vendor-comparison report from IDC.

“Datacenter facilities and IT executives are dealing with delays in application rollouts, disrupted service to customers, unplanned spending for patches, an inability to roll out new products or services, and unplanned downtime,” Richard Villars, IDC’s VP for datacenter and cloud research, wrote in a statement at the end. “DCIM solutions can help manage these issues by providing consistent and complete information about datacenter infrastructure.”

More than 60 percent of datacenter managers planned or would like to implement DCIM by the end of 2013, according to a 2012 Gartner survey that also predicted DCIM could penetrate as many as 60 percent of U.S. datacenters by 2015. It also found that, when implemented correctly, DCIM applications could pay for themselves by improving efficiency in power use, for example, by enough to cut operational cost for the whole datacenter by 20 percent.

Benefits such as those focus primarily on management of a datacenter’s physical plant rather than its extended IT infrastructure, according to Heavy Reading’s Courtney. As the market for public-cloud computing expands, the fastest-growing portion of the datacenter market will be telco datacenters supporting cloud-computing platforms. As those facilities grow, so will their need for better management tools and continuous improvements in efficiency.

The question, Courtney wrote, is whether DCIM vendors will be able to step up their abilities to handle either the size or virtuality of those datacenters.


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