DCIM: what are the complementarities with ITSM practice? (Part 6)

By Laurent Duenas, January, 28th 2014 


Part 4 and 5 presented the intersections between DCIM and ITSM various perspectives of industrialization and securization of infrastructure services provided from Data Center operation centers. This chapter focused on Service Catalog and cost optimisation where DCIM tools have a great contribution too.


What are the links between DCIM and ITSM? (suite)


Build a Service Catalog

IT Department is an internal provider who has to present its Service offering in an understandable way. Customers should be able to chose within a range of core Services and options the right combination that supports their business outcomes, at the quality level they expect and at the right price. This meaningful and business-aligned offering is provided though the concept of Service Catalog.



Provided this vision, contributions from Technical departments to IT Services provided to customers, has to be described using the same Service Catalog approach. Contributions from each Technical department - qualified also as “Technical offers” – are presented into “Technical Service Catalogs” using similar structure of core services, options, service levels and internal prices.


We can find Technical Service Catalog in all area of the IT Department:

►  A catalog of the Infrastructure Department providing:

►  Computing Power, Storage, Network, Printing, Workplace, etc. 

►  Service Continuity services offering different kind of backup solutions (such as immediate/hot, warm, and cold recovery)  

►  A catalog of the Design and Development department providing: 

►  Various technology and languages, standard modules or customized developments. 

►  Several quality levels of coding (such as normal or highly reliable programming) 

►  Various testing and validation levels (with partial or full range of warranties). 

►  A catalog of the Security entity providing comprehensive security solutions, categorized into front-end and back-end services, adapted to each utilization mode

►  Etc.


*Though, the Data Center department provides a set of contributions that can be resumed into a specific “Technical Service Catalog”. DCIM tools help to gather and administrate facility and physical-IT components into integrated Services. Consistent Infrastructure Services can be designed, assisted by DCIM tool capabilities, such as hosting, storage, or routing Services, whose service-units include all cooling, power, and continuity/security components, could be easily described into this catalog in order to be unitarily selected, activated, charged, and removed on demand.


When talking about Service Catalog and service levels categorization, we must link these best practices to the capabilities of DCIM tools of dynamic resources allocation. The rules employed to distribute dynamically resources are based on Service classes or “Service Level Packages” as they are called in the ITIL V3® framework. These rules ensure that the right level of capacity will be allocated according to service level agreements defined for a specific User Profile or an IT Service category (or criticality). These Service Level Packages – often known as Gold, Silver, Bronze Service Classes - are also related to parameterization of cost units which allow resource allocation according to “factory price” targets, and be able to respect prices as mentioned in the Service Catalog.


For example, DCIM tool can determine if they rather have to provision additional modules such as blades, UPS, or cooling capacity, or queuing resource request depending on the volume and the nature of the requester (applications, service or end-user department).  Choice is made using priority and performance rules defined in User Profiles, or Service Categories defined at the set-up of the DCIM tool. 


To optimize costs

DCIM tools also provide traditional Asset Management features regarding to financial concerns. They manage information such as purchasing cost, component book value, etc. The primary goal is to facilitate budget control, renewal decisions, and basically centralize all financial information into the accounting software. But DCIM contribution can go much further. 


Optimizing costs by controlling IT resource allocation:

Automated functionalities, previously mentioned, control the “factory-cots” targets. These functionalities also give a powerful control on expensive or scarce resources. By simulating, and analyzing the collateral impacts of more restrictive rules, intrusive policies can be elaborated avoiding adverse impact on critical businesses. For instance, this could be used to achieve infrastructure cost savings by drastically reducing scarce resource usage for low priority applications, while maintaining correct response-time for more critical ones. 


Example: When performance reduction can be admitted, DCIM tools can queue additional UPS and Blades activation and provide less responsive computing capacities, in order to preserve budgets from overspendings. These automated decisions affecting CPU as energy consumption in real time, were impossible to do manually in the past. As at the opposite, critical IT Services can be protected from any resource competition from other applications or end-user request with less priority for the business. This automation is a very powerful tool contributing both to business alignment and finance control. 


Of course, these rules must be defined in tandem with Service Level Management and IT Service Financial Management departments. Also, IT responsible working on Demand Management must be involved in this process of rule designing and be fully aware of implemented rules and their impacts. Profitability objectives and Service Level Management cannot live on their own without interacting together. At the end, rules implemented into DCIM tools influence customer satisfaction (and confidence) and must be applied in a consistent manner. 


Optimizing costs by rationalizing energy consumption:

Depending of its size and its equipment level, the Data Center TCO* is estimated between 80 K€ et 150 K€ by rack. According to specialist studies, portion of energy costs required to provide power supply and cooling to servers is over 50% of this TCO. And the trend is steadily increasing due to downward trend of IT hardware prices and the increase of energy prices. Energy cost optimization is a critical concern for Data Center managers. 


* TCO forTotal Cost of Ownership, a Gartner group concept, defines the full cost of equipment during its whole lifecycle. Evaluations from Gartner on specific Data Center equipments are based on a 10-year long lifecycle. 


Using their monitoring and automatic piloting capabilities on electrical consumption, DCIM tools are at the heart of optimization strategies of Data Center spending. 


Example: it is often encountered that the consequence of server consolidation projects based on virtualization technology result in energy imbalance. The PUE ration (Power Usage Effectiveness) measuring the total energy used compared to the real needed energy for the server indicate energy waste due to over-sizing of facility equipments. These have being originally sized for classical Data Center with less variation of machine and heat density.  


Without help of DCIM tools it would not be easy to take the right decisions for material installation of redistribution of fresh-air for shorter path and improve dispersion. It would not be easy to take the right decisions of equipment renewal for most adapted ones, with variable and less consuming. 


« Hence » for contexts where there is no possibility of Facility equipment replacement, due to highly and not affordable costs, or due to imperative amortization period of time), other decisions can be taken adapting the existing equipments:


►  Reduce the mix of hot and cold air, canalizing them through blanking panels, resulting in less waste

►  Arranging IT racks within the right aisles, under fresh or hot corridors

►  Remove equipments which are no longer justifiable

►  Renew facility equipments and IT with lower energy-consumption features

Experts in this field estimate the benefits of correctly using DCIM solutions at a reduction level of 20% of energy consumption. They predict these investments be amortized - speed depending of the Data-Center size - between 6 and 18 months*. Return of investment is fast.


* this is just « order of size » given by DCIM providers. ROI depends on the size of the Data Center, of its protection level (from Tier I to IV), of the investment done in DCIM implementation, and many other parameters. 


Limit the number of IT Services in order to limit cost of infrastructure consumption

We hardly ever think about it, but optimizing the number of IT Services is also an important factor of Data Center resource consumption, and then infrastructure costs. 


In many organizations, we find applications and data which are loaded, mobilizing technical resources, for reasons that we have all forgot and/or we fear any subsequent risk we cannot anticipate. In large Data Center, this happens a lot and sometimes projects and teams change or disappear, but Applications and Database still be loaded and consume server and storage capacity.


An active Service Portfolio Management process would tackle efficiently this issue. Other activities (or disciplines) such as Application Portfolio management which is a very close one, performed by Application Development department, would help  to identify what still be necessary to activate. This will benefit directly to optimization objectives by diminishing the average of allocated resources in the Data Center.


This Strategic and Tactic level process let IT department to take the right decisions in terms of future of IT Services, and also decide if it is necessary to maintain their relative components (application, modules, data, infrastructure) and their capacity. At the end, this results in a better utilization of existing infrastructure and generates significant savings in material and energy or cooling expenditures.


 Here again, a tight correlation with IT Service Strategy and Applications (depending of habits and practices of the organization) is mandatory to align the priorities within the strategic plan specific to Data Center (today, done in most organization by different people).


Caution must be taken:

Being focused only on costs reduction of IT and facility equipments can also have contradictory consequences toward IT department objectives. Indeed, a vision tightly focused on Data Center costs can lead to define optimization rules for consumption and resource allocation which far from expected IT Services performance. The result will go to the opposite way by penalizing critical services due to blind application of automation capabilities. Related optimization rules must be guided by a global Service Management vision, setting consistent - and aligned to business – ITSM practice, in order to support SLA commitments which applies to Data Center components as well.



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