Finally, the DCIM industry has matured to the point where the number of DCIM players has been trimmed and the value of what the remaining vendors offer is becoming more clear. As it turns out, what many DCIM vendors have been saying for the past 5 years has been a combination of wishful thinking, marketing sound-bites and yes, even a bit of reality thrown in! One of the biggest challenges has been the industry’s very weak definition of “Data Center Infrastructure Management” which has enabled any comer to state that their hard or soft wares are part of this category, as long as what they make touches the physical layer of the data center. While the term rightfully does focus on management of the physical structure itself, there ARE some ground rules that are becoming generally agreed upon to try any draw attention to the actual deep infrastructure management players, versus the casual solution provider that has a trivial value statement in their DCIM value.
Think of DCIM as a list of say 100 “features” which spans the physical brick and mortar structure of a data center as well as all of the structure’s contents. Any vendor that implements one or more of these features could call themselves a participant in the DCIM category but it is generally becoming the norm that a REAL DCIM VENDOR must provide a fairly significant amount of value (realized by the delivery of a non-trivial number of these “100” features). Since none of the DCIM vendors offer ALL 100 of these capabilities, any handful of different DCIM vendors can be compared to reveal competitive and complementary attributes. Some DCIM vendors focus on the features that most pertain to the contents of the structure, while other DCIM vendors focus on the brick-and-mortar structure itself (and its power and cooling). Using today’s definition of DCIM, BOTH of these vendor camps can label their offerings as “DCIM”. No wonder we see so much confusion by end users who are themselves struggling to find and prioritize their challenges.
The analysts and the end-user communities have been putting together their own ‘lists’ of DCIM capabilities that are important to them. Maybe not all 100, but some large portion. Each has a slightly different list of features, and each list is based upon some set of management tasks at some point in time. These lists of DCIM capabilities have materialized in the form of RFPs and analyst roundups, and are based upon the aggregation of what can be heard across many data center centric thought-leaders in the industry. Each list of capabilities has its own priority, based upon any previous understanding of the data center management tasks at hand. These lists are wide-ranging, and the DCIM industry has been littered with over-zealous vendors who wish to say “YES” to everything.
Beginning in 2014, we started to see a critical challenge to what each vendor has been saying. Proof of deliverable DCIM value is now the most important part of the selection process. We are entering the “Show Me” phase where all vested parties are asking to be shown exactly what can be done. This phase should be exciting to all since it separates the articulated “strategy and direction” of each DCIM supplier, from what that supplier can demonstrate and prove today. Each of the main analyst firms is putting their plans together to actually “see” the competitive solutions in action, and each of the RFPs circulating are weighting heavily on the demonstration phases prior to award.
In 2015, demonstration of DCIM is paramount. It is time to put all the rhetoric and posturing aside and demand that your DCIM vendors prove what they can do now. The analysts are spending a ton of time to try and SEE the features in action and are interviewing real customers. End-users and analysts alike, it is now time to start talking turkey. Becoming very transparent is good for the industry as ambiguous and misleading claims costs everyone time and money. Historically, DCIM projects seem to drag on while the wheat is separated from the chaff. Historically industry reports tend to sound too good to be true, since they were based on what vendors SAID rather than what they could show. There is a set of critical capabilities that answer YOUR questions, and address YOUR needs. That is the basis of DCIM selection in 2015. Getting down to the brass tacks to solve end-user physical infrastructure management challenges….
The quicker we can all actually start looking at the various solutions, seeing where each fits against our own set of requirements, the better we will all be for it. Just say “Show Me”!