Today's data centers are sprawling, complex facilities. Some have hundreds of thousands or even millions of square feet of space filled with IT and telecommunications equipment.
All those systems generate an enormous amount of heat, and data centers need a lot of electricity both to power the hardware and to provide cooling so that the data center stays at optimal operating conditions. As a result, energy is typically one of the biggest operating expenses for data centers.
In order to keep their power costs as low as possible, many data centers rely on complicated environmental systems that can determine when humidity or temperature in a particular area is outside of acceptable limits and then make corrections. In some cases, these sensors are so precise that they can identify which individual racks or individual servers are causing the problem. These sensors typically feed data into data center management software, often called data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software.
The demand for these types of solutions has been growing very quickly. According to Zion Market Research, the market for DCIM software is currently expanding at around 20.3 percent per year. By 2021, the data center management software market could be worth $1.7 billion. One of the big drivers for the increase in DCIM purchases is the federal government's Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI). It requires federal data centers to use DCIM software, as well as obligating them to meet optimization and cost savings targets.
What is Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) Software?
Data center management software has the ability to monitor and control physical systems, such as power distribution units and air conditioning, and IT or telecommunications hardware, including servers, storage and networking gear. It generally includes a mapping tool that allows staff to see where various hardware is located and how it might be contributing to the overall functioning of the facility.
DCIM software differs from other building management software in that it is designed specifically for use in data centers, which have unique needs. And it differs from other IT monitoring tools in that it focuses primarily on power consumption and temperature management, rather than on the performance of the servers and other hardware.
As trends like the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analytics have become more widespread, data center management software vendors have taken advantage of technological advances to offer a more detailed picture of what is happening facilities. Modern DCIM systems often include real-time monitoring capabilities so that managers can receive alerts and react immediately when any problems occur. The latest software also often includes advanced reporting tools and visualizations that allow organizations to see general trends and fluctuations that have occurred over time. In addition, data center management software may have asset management capabilities that inform staff when hardware needs preventive maintenance. Many of the products available also have some capacity management capabilities to help enterprises plan for future needs.
Data Center Management Software Vendors
Although a few large software companies have recently exited the DCIM business, quite few different vendors offer DCIM solutions, and there is also one notable open source solution. Those listed below are among the best known. Note that while the larger vendors are near the top of the list and the smaller vendors are near the bottom, this is not a ranking based on market size or the quality of the solutions offered.
1. NIyte Software
Nlyte claims to be "the leader in data center infrastructure management" as well as "the fastest DCIM solution to deploy." It comes in three different editions: Enterprise, Energy Optimizer, and Colocation. Its impressive list of customers includes Cisco, Verizon, Intel Security, Fujitsu, DirectTV, the FDIC, NASA, Rackspace, and HPE, as well as 15 of the world's largest colocation, hosting and cloud facilities and more than 30 U.S. government agencies.
2. Schneider Electric
Named a "leader" in Gartner's Magic Quadrant report, Schneider Electric offers some of the most popular data center management software available. Its StructureWare software offers highly scalable monitoring with an integrated view of data center operations. Its DCIM tools can also assist with capacity planning, change management, energy efficiency and cooling and IT optimization.
See user review of Schneider Electric
The Schneider data center solution assists with tasks like energy efficiency and change management.
Formerly known as Emerson Network Power, Vertiv offers a variety of power, thermal and infrastructure management products, software and solutions. Its DCIM solutions include several tools sold under the Trellis band name, as well as some sold under the Vertiv name. Like Schneider Electric, it was also in the "leaders" quadrant in the Gartner 2016 Magic Quadrant for Data Center Infrastructure Management Tools.
See user review of Vertiv
Labeled a "challenger" in Gartner's Magic Quadrant, Panduit offers DCIM tools for energy efficiency, asset management, capacity management and uptime and resilience. Its SmartZone line includes software, hardware and services designed to help companies mitigate risk, improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. The company is probably best known for its wiring and cabling solutions, and it also offers other data center equipment like cabinets, racks and thermal management systems.
See user review of Panduit
ABB's Ability data center automation solution brings together DCIM, mechanical and electrical control, monitoring and optimization capabilities. It boasts a "single pane" view of the data center with real-time monitoring, as well as automation capabilities that can improve the function and uptime for cooling and electrical systems. It recently announced a partnership with IBM that will bring IoT technology and Watson cognitive computing capabilities to the Ability solution.
See user review of ABB
Siemens claims to be the "world's largest provider of green technologies," and it offers a variety of tools to help data centers become more environmentally efficient, as well as building automation, fire protection, security and power solutions. Its DCIM software is named Clarity, and it offers features like HD 4-D reporting, real-time monitoring, KPI dashboard, real-time device-level dashboard, network management, workflow management, security access configuration, computational fluid dynamics and more.
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The Siemens web site offers an interactive chart about data center tools.
Device42's website boasts that its DCIM "capabilities have revolutionized the way IT departments manage their data centers." Its solution focuses on visualizations like data center room layouts and rack diagrams. It also includes the detailed device information, the ability to manage spare parts and power and thermal management.
See user review of Device42
Known for its Cormant-CD DCIM solution, this company boasts a 94 percent customer retention rate. Some of its best-known customers include the Australian Stock Exchange, Barclays Bank, Cisco, Experian, Sony Electronics and many others. It also offers consulting, integration, training, implementation and site audit services.
See user review of Cormant
FNT invites organizations to "experience the inner calm that comes with successful data center management." Its DCIM solution includes real-time power and temperature monitoring, planning capabilities and dashboard-based analysis of key metrics. The company also offers software for IT management and telecommunication infrastructure management.
See user review of FNT
Sunbird claims to offer "the world's leading data center management software," which it describes as "the know-it-all DCIM solution." It receives very high ratings on Gartner Peer Insights, and it counts Comcast, Merck and HP among its customers. The solution includes asset management, capacity management, change management, energy management, environment management and power management capabilities.
11. RF Code
Founded in 1997, RF Code's primary product is its CenterScape platform, which promises "real-time operational intelligence for your data center." Key features include automated data collection, granular data down to the sub-rack level and integration with other data center software. Its customers include AT&T, CenturyLink, CA Technologies, Bank of America, Dell, eBay, FedEx, Oracle, Verizon and Vodafone.
See user review of RF Code
While most of the DCIM vendors focus on their products' advanced capabilities, Modius promises an affordable solution. It claims that the product needs no professional implementation or on-going support, and it doesn't have seat licenses. Its OpenData DCIM tool comes in three versions—machine, standard and enterprise.
See user review of Modius
If Modius isn't inexpensive enough for you, there is also a free open source tool called openDCIM. Its features include asset tracking, multiple room support, fault tolerance tracking, center of gravity computation, optional cable connection tracking, and space, power and cooling management. It is based on MySQL and runs on a LAMP server.