Just like most software solutions, the value realized from your DCSM implementation is proportional to the discipline with which it is used by the entire data center staff and how tightly integrated it is with other IT processes and software. And just like you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to enjoy the benefit of fitness, you don’t need to reach the upper right of the DCSM Maturity Model (see diagram) to reap tremendous benefits from DCSM. In fact, the benefits of each phase of the DCSM Maturity Model build on the previous ones as described below:
Phase 0: Manual Methods
This phase is where most companies are today. Asset management at this stage takes the form of multiple spreadsheets created by multiple groups, each with varying types of information. The accuracy and consistency of data only declines over time. What’s on paper can be grossly out of sync with the reality on the data center floor. Therefore, just taking the first step from managing and juggling multiple spreadsheets, floor plans and Visio diagrams into a consolidated view with a single version of the truth is a very affordable first step that can return huge benefits. If there ever is a proverbial low-hanging fruit in the data center, this is it.
Phase 1: Data Aggregation & Normalization
This phase is the first step on the road to DCSM where you’ll aggregate and normalize your data sets so they are compatible and can truly communicate. Think of this as setting a new common language to replace your data center’s former tower of Babel. You first start with data import and export. The basic import process provided by some vendors includes predefined templates and spreadsheet examples for you to populate. All data from any existing source must still be manually massaged and then copied and pasted into the new format. More mature DCSM vendors use advanced error-checking software to map the source information to the DCSM package’s own data format. When all is said and done, you ideally have error correction capabilities to look up missing information; can replace sequential missing data and de-duplicate asset fields to properly handle structured cabling range conventions; and are able to rank data fields based on overlapping sources. This phase is crucial because if it is not executed well, ongoing access and subsequent additions will be impacted.
Phase 2: Process Management & Reporting
As the saying goes, learn to walk before you fly. Before you can truly take advantage of the full capabilities that come with the DCSM solution, you need to have the process in place to manage the various changes so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. This phase does not require a full-blown workflow (which we’ll cover in Phase 4), but a simpler set of rules that help you define, measure and evaluate progress so you can determine what is moving the needle. And speaking of moving the needle, one of the most important aspects of a DCSM system is its reporting capability. After all, having all the data in itself doesn’t amount to much if it can’t be reduced to an understandable form that can be acted upon by humans. Once you have the process and reporting defined, you are ready to tackle integration.
Phase 3: Integration
The choice of enterprise software integrations can be considered one of the most strategic decisions that must be made to ensure long-term success. Each of the IT management systems must be evaluated to determine how it might contribute to the overall success of the enterprise. IT management must determine not only the types of data to be integrated, but also whether to build custom code integrations (either themselves or from a vendor) or purchase an off-the-shelf connector. These choices have a dramatic and lasting impact on the overall business strategy, the long-term success of the DCIM project, and the total cost of ownership for IT as a whole. The integration of multiple systems from different vendors is a task not to be taken lightly. So make sure you don’t overlook this pivotal step before moving on.
Phase 4: Workflow Modeling
In essence, workflow is a process detailing who, what, when, where and how data center changes should be handled. It is impossible to perfect DCSM without workflow as companies grow more complex and their workforce becomes more distributed. Workflow provides flexibility yet retains control. It is the backbone that underpins integration with complex ITSM solutions. With workflow, you now have transparency, visibility and, ultimately, accountability for your IT. If there ever is a holy grail to your ITSM solution, workflow is the indispensable path to take you there. With workflow being the capstone of your DSCM implementation, your organization’s ability to create and maintain the workflow system on your own will determine how much mileage you can get out of the DCSM.
The key to success in jumpstarting your DCSM journey is to set goals, in terms of capabilities, timing, investment and business value.