Combining DCIM and BIM tools for effective datacentre management

If datacentre IT equipment and datacentre building was combined, the building and cooling could be tailored to increase efficiency

Datacentre infrastructure management (DCIM) is a term for overall lifecycle management of a datacentre. As DCIM tools mature and move beyond their core functionality, there is a crossover, or maybe even a collision, between DCIM and another management approach – building information modelling (BIM).

Bringing BIM and DCIM together, the best of all worlds can be combined for an efficient functioning of a datacentre.

DCIM combines what used to be stand-alone functions, such as datacentre design, asset discovery and management, capacity planning and energy management

DCIM tools have been maturing and are beginning to break outside of their core functionality to become more far reaching in what they can do.

One of the significant effects of DCIM maturity is the crossover between it and BIM.

BIM is used in many cases from the design phase, through construction to the running of a building. 

It covers a large remit from modelling of the building and project management of the physical build, the creation of bills of material for the building supplies through to monitoring and management of the resulting building. 

The crossover between BIM and DCIM and how it affects datacentre management?

Historically, a datacentre has been made up of two different systems – there is the facility which is a building that is generally owned and managed by the facilities management group; and there is the IT equipment housed within it, which is owned and managed by the IT department. 

This was fine when the only needs that the IT equipment had when it came to the facility was that there was enough cooling and backup power available.

But times have changed and such simplicity is no longer enough.

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Today the datacentre is a single unit – the IT equipment has to work alongside the facilities equipment -- including the uninterruptable power supplies (UPSs), the cooling systems, the standby auxiliary generators and the power distribution layout – in a flexible and dynamic manner.

As the densities of IT equipment grow, only allowing for mains distribution blocks to be provided under-floor, or just to a rack, is not enough anymore. Datacentre cooling has to be directed far more than it has been ever before to make it efficient and to save power costs. 

With two teams of people – facilities management (FM) and information technology (IT) – working separately, it is difficult for the CIOs and their enterprises to have an optimised datacentre design.

Combining DCIM with BIM

However, by bringing BIM and DCIM together – maybe as a facility information and infrastructure modelling and management (FIIMM) tool – the best of both worlds can be combined.

From the BIM world comes building modelling – the ability to plan in 3D where walls will be and where pillars need to be. Power systems can all be modelled such that clearances are correct.  

Meanwhile, from DCIM comes IT equipment modelling – the ability to design racks and rows of equipment and accurately calculate exactly how much power will be required to each system. 

Here are some of the immediate benefits for the IT departments:

  • Computational fluid dynamics can be brought to play, using the latest American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidelines on thermal envelopes for datacentre equipment. The BIM system can then ensure that computer room air conditioning (CRAC) or other cooling systems are positioned correctly in order to provide the right flows to maintain equipment within these thermal limits.
  • Intelligence can be built in through movement-sensitive lighting, only using energy when there is movement within specific parts of the datacentre; security systems can be converged so that the facility and the IT equipment work together to ensure that only the right people have physical and technical access to the right equipment.
  • Asset management can be optimised across the whole of the facility, tying in planned maintenance of both building and IT equipment so that only one downtime occurrence is required, and that planned equipment replacement is carried out in such a manner that new equipment’s needs are continually met by the facility’s capabilities. 

In addition, the “what if” scenarios can show where changes to the facility will be required and the impact of new technological platforms – such as cloud – can be tested as to whether a facility can effectively shrink its capabilities as more workloads are moved to outside cloud platforms.

The convergence of DCIM and BIM can go much further than this. The need to move towards “intelligent buildings”, or even campuses and organisations, means that there is a need to bring IT into the realm of facilities across all of the buildings facilities manages. 

The integration will enable enterprises to use IT effectively as an underpinning element for business. It will also help to better optimise the energy usage, with excess heat from one part of a building being moved to other areas where heat may be required, or by using heat pumps to offset the amount of energy required to heat water. 

Together, both teams can ensure that natural cooling techniques such as ventilation can be provided so that during summer, forced cooling is minimised – thereby saving costs. 

Automated vents can make the most of external weather conditions to ensure that constant temperatures are maintained throughout the overall building.

DCIM remains an emerging capability, with many organisations not yet having appreciated how important it can be. 

However, if the main players such as nlyte, Emerson and Romonet can get their messaging correct and partner with some of the software and service suppliers in the BIM space, such as Autodesk, Bentley or FM:Systems, then not only will the datacentre be a much better, efficient IT element, but the organisation too will benefit from a far more efficient and effective estate of buildings.

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