There’s skepticism around the ROI of DCIM (data center infrastructure management) tools. It stems from the number of vendors in the market, the disparity between offerings and the ROI not being tracked solely in terms of dollars (ie. it can also include savings in employee time or other types of savings). Occasionally, negative experiences with DCIM can ensue from poorly managed implementations, which can fortunately be avoided (some implementation success tips can be found here). Nonetheless, DCIM tends to have ROI between one to five years depending on the solution and the customer. Here’s how.
1. Consolidating data
Savings type: Employee hour savings; Energy savings; Equipment savings; Cost of downtime.
It’s important to consolidate information into a single source. Many companies currently hold this information in multiple spreadsheets or spreadsheets combined with other programs. Aggregating this data saves time by:
- Eliminating rework – You only need to update changes in one location. Additionally, with mobility options available in some DCIM software, every change can be updated in real-time at the site of the change, making updates as easy as scanning a barcode or RFID tag.
- Reducing the frequency of meetings – Cross-functional teams access the same information so the progression of multiple tasks are streamlined and easy-to-read analytics are automatically updated. This allows changes to be made in significantly less time, often faster by a number of days.
- Reducing errors – With a single data source, errors are reduced, improving “firefighting” and helping prevent downtime.
- Identifying unused equipment – Initial audits and imports ensure accuracy of data, including all your equipment and connections. Many people discover forgotten equipment in this stage.
2. Monitoring the environment
Savings type: Energy savings; Site space saving; Equipment saving; Reduce downtime.
Take your data from static to dynamic. DCIM provides more visibility to your equipment so you know exactly how it’s functioning at any given time to optimize the utilization of that equipment. You can monitor power, temperature, capacity and more. DCIM adds meaning to the data. Instead of simply knowing what the temperature is, DCIM visibly shows you the temperature, but also shows why it is that temperature, what is causing that temperature, what the temperature could be if you made a change and how the temperature could be optimized. The same applies to power. Think of it as the data center being able to tell you how it’s feeling and how you can make it feel better (a.k.a. how you can save money). Here are some ways to save money by monitoring the environment with DCIM:
- Identifying underutilized equipment – See underutilized equipment in terms of power and capacity and initially look for low-hanging fruit. For example, a device with static data is most likely not being used so you can now recognize this and take necessary action. Overall, you may be able to consolidate and decommission equipment or better use equipment to expand utilization.
- Reducing unnecessary cooling – DCIM shows how to optimize temperature in your data center, thus reducing cooling costs which can result in significant savings. A report by Colleen Miller stated that 4 percent in energy costs can be saved for every increased degree of temperature.[i]
- Alerting of dangerous temperatures – While some areas may require less cooling, some areas might be too hot and in danger of failing. Recognize this before a problem occurs as the cost of this type of problem could be huge.
3. Utilizing data
Savings type: Financial savings; Regulatory savings.
Data is easily accessible, up-to-date and accurate to demonstrate compliance to reduce the risk of being fined, getting sued or experiencing a security breach. You may also find benefits in tax reporting such as with “use taxes” where you pay tax on every item owned. With DCIM, you reduce the risk of paying tax on items no longer used and also easily maintain historical records for audits.
- Following the lifecycle of assets – By tracking the asset from purchase to recycle or decommission, you gain awareness and alerts of when equipment needs to be replaced and can streamline that process. This prevents the risk of not providing agreed service levels to customers while equipment is on-order and also helps with budgeting.
- Optimizing capacity – There are three ways to potentially save money here. First, avoiding the purchase of additional racks or a new data center by optimizing your current capacity. Second, consolidating smaller sites (server closets, co-lo space, small data centers, etc.). If you currently run multiple sites, you may realize you can decrease the number of sites due to optimizing current capacity. Third, saving energy costs by doing more with less. For example, you may be able to decommission servers or entire racks from the gained efficiency from DCIM. The Uptime Institute’s Server Roundup Awards are a great example of companies who have saved hundreds of thousands doing just this. The savings here can add up with an Uptime Institute survey estimating one rack unit of decommissioned servers results in $2,000 in one-time savings and $500 in per year savings ($500 per year savings in energy costs, $500 in operating system licenses and $1,500 in hardware maintenance costs).[ii]
*Bonus. Combining efforts between IT and Facilities teams
Savings type: Positive work environment savings; Employee hour savings
Some teams have a communication battle between IT and Facilities occasionally referred to as “The Great Divide”. DCIM helps bring together IT and Facilities to create awareness and communication between departments for a happier workplace, reduced frustration and a more complete view of your situation for efficient workflow and planning.
DCIM can often provide a strong ROI and generally make an immediate impact on an organization’s IT. As you budget for DCIM, keep these examples in mind. Remember that savings can come in different forms but they all eventually result in financial savings. Though putting a price tag on employee time saved from increased efficiency is difficult, everyone agrees it is important. Combine examples of direct financial savings with indirect financial savings such as increased efficiency savings to state your case, combined with neutral examples such as reports that are not from vendors or vendor reports with proven information and statistics (ie. The Server Roundup Awards is a prime example of companies saving hundreds and thousands of dollars, see the Data Center Knowledge write-up on the 2014 event here). DCIM requires less validation today than it did just two years ago, but some are still skeptical so keep in mind that there are multiple ways to save from DCIM.
[i] Miller, Colleen. “Energy Efficiency Guide: Data Center Temperature.” Data Center Knowledge. 10 Mar. 2011. http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2011/03/10/energy-efficiency-guide-data-center-temperature/.
[ii] Uptime Institute. “Annual Data Center Industry Survey.” 2013. http://uptimeinstitute.com/images/stories/DataCenterSurvey_assets/uptime-institute-2013-data-center-survey.pdf.