On the occasion that they are ever in the same building, the data center manager and members of the C-suite may often be perceived as occupying opposite ends of the conference room table. The reality, however, is that these parties have an interdependent relationship. Today’s data centers are the modern equivalent of railroad infrastructure and the world’s business rides upon its rails. As a result, IT has moved from the basement to the boardroom, and the destinies of the data center manager and the C-suite executive have become intertwined.

For IT to serve as both a service to the business and a force for driving business, it must remain not only at the vanguard of technological developments but also stay acutely aware of the economic realities as they relate to an organization’s business objectives. It is in the mutual interest of the data center facility manager and C-suite exec to work together to satisfy the many overlapping business requirements in the most cost-effective manner possible. The challenge is not only to align facilities and IT, but to align the data center with the organization’s business goals.

boardroom fight arm wrestle tech v business thinkstock photos welczenbach tams
– Thinkstock / Welczenbach Tams

Money’s too tight to mention

But when IT budgets are tight, the CFO watches every nickel and penny. How could he not, since that’s his assigned role? Compound this with the slowly recovering but uncertain economy, and many enterprises have put data center build-outs on hold, meaning they must find ways to do more with current resources. The result is that the data center manager often lives in fear of running out of space, power and cooling capacity. On one side you have the C-suite strategically balancing the budget and fiscal priorities to find the biggest pay-off, while IT is charged with keeping the lights on.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), data centers consume as much as 20 times more energy per square foot than a typical office building, a fact that is motivating large enterprises across all industry sectors to forcefully take control of their energy consumption and costs. To do this, data center operators must measure energy-related data across the entire site, including the building, the facility’s components and the IT equipment portfolio.

The overall goal is to optimize the data center and increase overall operational efficiency. But to do so requires that the C-suite expands budgets, buys into solutions and maintains better oversight to ensure that data center infrastructure development does indeed have an ROI proposition.

A failure to communicate

In most instances, communication between the data center manager and the C-suite is lacking, so business and data center strategies are not aligned. CFOs, and even CIOs, don’t necessarily understand the data center, and vice versa.

To get everyone at the conference table on board and effectively change upper management’s perception of data center infrastructure from a short-term, ‘If isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality to one of proactive investment, facility managers must begin by introducing the right conversation. CIOs and CFOs, meanwhile, must practice active listening when a data center or facility manager speaks, because these individuals hold the key to efficiency. Given the facts concerning data center infrastructure management (DCIM), it shouldn’t be too great a challenge to get the C-suite to pay close attention.

Into the lion’s den

DCIM products combine IT and building facilities functions to provide engineers and administrators with a holistic view of a data center’s performance to ensure that energy, equipment and floor space are used as efficiently as possible. If you’re a data center facility manager about to pitch DCIM to the lions in the boardroom, you might begin by citing Gartner, which estimates that DCIM can cut operating expenses for companies by as much as 20 percent or more.

To change upper management’s perception of data center infrastructure to one of proactive investment, facility managers must begin by introducing the right conversation.

DCIM integrates data from tools that have traditionally been siloed within facilities and IT environments. Aggregating information from these disparate and often unconnected systems provides facilities management with a single lens to perform capacity planning, manage risk, calculate power utilization and optimize overall efficiency. It’s this holistic, real-time visibility that unlocks the door to ROI.

Data centers that leverage DCIM report benefits across multiple core areas, including energy efficiency, advanced thermal management, reduced operating costs and infrastructure reliability. In addition to streamlining usage, the enhanced visibility offered by DCIM provides valuable insight into power hardware upgrades, data center server consolidations, and adoption of virtual servers, all of which drive energy efficiency.

Moreover, advanced DCIM has a direct impact on thermal management. To prevent infrastructure failures, many managers typically overcool their systems and waste valuable energy in the process. By providing advanced thermal management, DCIM can pinpoint which areas of the data center are overcooled and determine those that are vulnerable to damage should temperatures rise — critical preemptive data should a heat wave arrive during the dog days of summer. Ultimately, this allows data centers to run at higher temperatures and lower cooling costs with an average reduction in power usage of 16 percent.

So, given the fiscal benefits that DCIM provides the enterprise data center, will facility managers and CFOs join hands, raise glasses and sing old Simon and Garfunkel songs? Given the circumstances, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” comes to mind.

Well, probably not. But deploying DCIM just might mark the beginning of their beautiful friendship, nonetheless.

Jeff Klaus is the general manager of Data Center Manager (DCM) Solutions, at Intel Corporation.