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Keys to successful data center consolidation

Talking Tech By Moosa Matariyeh, CDW solution architect, enterprise storage, Network World
October 13, 2011 03:58 PM ET
Moosa Matariyeh

Network World - Data center consolidation continues to be a hot topic, and with good reason. It has proven to be an effective way to reduce costs and complexity, setting organizations on a course for more efficient IT management. But while the benefits are proven, the path to success takes careful navigation.

Organizations typically look at data center consolidation as a way to manage expenses and reassert control over highly distributed environments. While these are great reasons, it is critical that an organization has a full understanding of what consolidation means, including the benefits, risks and potential challenges, to ensure a successful implementation.

To steer your organization toward success, consider these best practices to avoid common pitfalls and reap the benefits of consolidation.

Consider all the challenges. Technical and financial issues aside, data center consolidation can also present cultural challenges. Address these head-on by including your human resources department in the project. You will need HR to help develop a plan to manage any personnel changes that might arise.

Obviously you'll need to fully demonstrate projected benefits and have a detailed technical plan/roadmap. More often than not, an over-budget consolidation project is the result of poor planning. It is important to understand how long the transition will take and what staff and type of expertise will be necessary to support the move.

SURVEY: Data center consolidation runs rampant

As you plan, be sure the data center facility staff and IT management communicate. For instance, one item that often gets overlooked is the utility bill. If the facilities group pays for power, IT may underestimate requirements and costs, sending the project over budget.

Be sure to establish pre-consolidation baseline data in order to measure the success of your new data center. Benchmarking performance before and after consolidation enables you to validate the success of the project and ensures better understanding of data that you collect. These metrics will provide insight into how successful the project truly is.

And once your plans are set, stick to them. Minimizing changes during the implementation will reduce complications to the project.

Trust the experts. Data center projects of this magnitude don't happen every day and, as a result, few organizations have all the necessary expertise to execute the entire plan internally. Consider using a partner that has the experience that your organization needs.

For larger projects, the decision about what to consolidate first will seriously impact your project. In most cases, it is best to move common services -- such as email, data storage and libraries -- and low-risk data first. This gets the project started, while reducing the potential for bigger issues in later phases. This also gives you the opportunity to tweak the process, making each subsequent move better than the last. The goal is for your critical systems move to be as smooth and error-free as possible.

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