Every vendor believes in itself and knows that its solutions have some great merits. But as a service or solution user, how do you know what’s good, and what’s great, for your case?
In the world of data centers, Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solutions are more than a ’nice to have’ once you begin to scale up and face a complicated and mission-critical environment.
It’s a measurable truth that DCIM can majorly reduce the cost of running the data center environment, providing visibility over the entire estate, no matter where it’s based. It also forms a solid bulwark against the configuration, power and cooling errors that inevitably occur in a changing environment.
However, as with any IT implementation, due diligence is a must. And as with any mature technology, the likes of Gartner, IDC and Forrester produce regular reports into technologies and how vendors are performing.
But bear in mind that your business needs are your own, and what’s good for customers in other (or even related industries) may not be tailored for you. Align your technology choice to your current and planned future business objectives and ensure any technology partners take this honestly into account.
Asking any vendors some key questions helps discover which exactly are the best-fit technologies for your situation. This guide is oriented to DCIM solutions for the data center, but the sense of the questions can apply for other technology transformations a business is planning.
How long have they been in the DCIM business, and what else do they do?
Find out if the vendors discovered are specialists or generalists. Get below the surface as everyone will say they are experts to get your business, but vendors might be new to the market. Some might be long established but this technology area is not one that they invest in or see as critical to their overall portfolio. How do their existing customers view them? Will the vendor provide references – because if not, there’s a danger sign! Are they staying, leaving, or still paying for the service? Is DCIM a company focus or an add-on to a bigger portfolio?
What exactly does the DCIM solution provide?
Prospective users should be armed with a long checklist, relating back to current and future business needs and goals. See if the solution provides a ‘dock to decom’ (loading dock to decommissioning) whole life cycle asset management experience. See if it provides energy management, capacity planning and power monitoring as part of the core functionality. Does it easily track savings? Can a solution provide reports that are appropriate for all the stakeholders?
And, beyond reports, what about alerts to future issues, rather than retrospective views? Will it scale with you? Does it have the capability to perform “What if?” virtual testing? It’s worth shooting for the moon and seeking a clear feature set for everything you need now and in the future.
Get a proof of concept
Credentials are key. A vendor worth their price should provide a POC. It will show performance, features, and just how easy it will be to engage with the whole feature set. During this phase try to aggressively test the limits of your business needs. Films tell us that drill sergeants tell their men: Train hard, fight easy – and the same concept applies when playing in the sandbox under test conditions.
Understand the implementation pathway and how to reach the end successfully
Any provider should offer a clear idea of the implementation timescales – and stick to it. You should be able to plan the staffing requirements in advance with no nasty surprises down the line.
Leveraging existing data for the prospective solution and understanding the migration tools necessary must be done well in advance – surprises should not be in store. Vendors and technology partners should also provide help with all aspects of data migration and integration with the existing systems and connectors. Prospective customers should get comfortable knowing about training and customer service after the sale as well as any other costs that may appear.
And one more time, circle back on customer retention!
Ask everyone involved about their customer survey scores. Dig into other customer references that are as near to your own business situation as possible.
And, to conclude with something entirely different: Bear in mind, with the Internet of Things promising an estimated 25 million devices connected to the Internet by 2020, industries will see an explosion of data as we network and understand more about the systems around us. Inevitably this will put more pressure and more opportunity on the data center manager’s head. It’s wise to start the journey to this future from a solid and stable base.
Mark Gaydos is chief marketing officer for Nlyte Software