Tactical Advice

What to Consider for Tracking Assets with DCIM

Weigh the following factors to choose the best solution for the environment.
What to Consider for Tracking Assets with DCIM

Data center infrastructure management tools simplify asset tracking to enable timely insight and situational awareness. Technologies for IT asset tracking include radio frequency identification (RFID) along with asset tags. Focus on these five areas of consideration for choosing the best DCIM discovery and asset tracking tools for a particular environment.

1. Type of information to collect

Determine the scope of the DCIM initiative. Is it just facilities-related, or does it also include physical and logical items? Physical items include servers, storage, power distribution units, computer room air conditioning units, monitors and related gear, and cabling. Logical refers to software instances, licensing, OS images on physical machines and virtual machines, and storage and networking configuration.

2. Frequency of updates

An organization’s needs dictate how often its inventory of assets must be updated.

The timeliness of updated asset information will determine the role of automated, semi-automated and manual tools. For example, for a static environment, a semi-automated or manual tool may be adequate. For dynamic environments that require timely insight and have a broad scope of items to track, an automated approach is in order.

3. How information will be collected

There are several ways to collect information. These range from walking around the office noting physical asset tags to using semi-automated tools. Semi-automated tools include purpose-built devices, along with PDAs, smartphones, tablets and notebooks that can read RFID tags, barcodes or QR codes.

Once the information is collected, semi-automated tools may require a manual step to upload or connect to a configuration management database or repository. Some tools can detect physical location, while others require manual indication via a GUI map. The advantage of RFID is that IT staff don’t need to get as close to an asset as they would with traditional barcodes.

4. Options for real-time, dynamic assets

For items that leave the data center, such as magnetic tapes, removable hard disk drives or other assets, consider GPS, radio frequency or cell tracking capabilities. These telemetry tools are similar to LoJack systems for cars or notebook computers in that they can track in real-time where an asset is located or being transported. Options also include subscription services, cloud-based offerings, software tools and physical collection devices.

Some IT gear supports different options for exporting the data they generate to DCIM tools; for example, via SNMP Management Information Blocks (MIBs), APIs, command-line interface, or comma-separated variable (CSV) Excel-compatible spreadsheets. In addition to scanning for changes, look for tools that can proactively detect changes.

5. What to do with the information

After defining scope — what information to track and what collection tools are needed — define what the organization intends to do with the data. Does it have a configuration management database or collection of smaller repositories or Excel worksheets? How will the IT department link and integrate collected data with other processes, workflows and repositories or knowledge bases? To remove complexity and cost, look to integrate the timely collection of information into repositories.

The best approach for using DCIM tools and technology depends on the needs of the environment, including the timeliness of the data. If this is a new project, start simple, gain confidence and build success to buttress the business case for doing more with DCIM.

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About the Author

Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz, author of several books on storage, is founder of the StorageIO Group, an IT industry analyst consultancy whose blog can be found at storageioblog.com and at twitter.com/storageio.

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