As a DCIM software vendor, I am frequently asked this question, and I have a simple answer. DCIM is ERP for the Data Center Manager. Consider this.

Like a manufacturing plant, a Data Center has lots of assets.

  • Both ERP and DCIM help in Asset Management.

Just as there are raw materials, including Power coming into a manufacturing plant, we have Networks and Power as raw material coming into the Data Center.

  • In both cases, usage has to be accounted for and that’s what ERP and DCIM do.

Raw material is processed to produce final products in a manufacturing plant. Similarly, there’s Data Processing happening within the large array of servers and storage in the Data Center using Power and Networks to deliver different Information Service to different users (final products).

  • An ERP helps in Production Planning, Order Management and WIP Management. DCIM Software helps in Cooling, Power, and Space Management.

Some manufacturing plants are dependent on Distributed Control Systems at one end and Manufacturing Execution Systems on the other. Similarly, many Data Centers have a Building Management System (used by Facilities team) and a Systems Performance and Management Software (used by IT).

  • ERP bridges the gap between Distributed Control Systems and Manufacturing Execution System. Similarly, DCIM bridges the gap between a Building Management System and a Systems Performance & Management Tool.

Manufacturing operations require establishing and measuring KPIs for operational efficiency. Data Centers have the need to establish and measure its own KPIs for both energy and operational efficiency.

  • ERPs measure manufacturing KPIs like Inventory Turns and Inventory Accuracy. DCIM measures Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), Watt per Rack and Watt per square foot in a Data Center.

It’s a world of multiple constraints with multiple variables and different objectives – some of them pulling in different directions – to manage in all operational activities. Modern ERPs are Constraint-based planning software taking into account supply chain constraints. The Next Generation DCIM software are also headed that way as they need to resolve the Data Center Manager’s contradictory objectives like maximizing asset utilization, minimizing power consumption while at the same time delivering high availability at over 99%, which can be treated as a constraint. Just as ERP replaced discrete applications and spreadsheets, so also DCIM is making inroads into the larger Data Centers offering a comprehensive suite to Data Center Infrastructure & Operations Managers.