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Avoid the typical gotchas in a data center consolidation and modernization project

By Patrick Bourke, a solution architect with Akibia, special to Network World
October 12, 2012 04:06 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Organizations struggling to modernize operations and control expenditures often consider moving to converged data center operations, and they key to avoiding mistakes along the way is doing a comprehensive data center infrastructure assessment upfront.

"Where should we start? What strategy is best? How much will it cost? How long will it take?" Every organization must confront these questions and the assessment process provides the answers. The assessment includes eight steps and is designed to lead to a fully modernized and consolidated data center, while avoiding the unnecessary mistakes that can delay and infringe upon the project.

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Step 1 -- Define the purpose and goals

In this step, it is important to work with all the key stakeholders in the project. In some organizations, this may mean working with business units outside a geographic region or country. Clearly define what the high-level goal(s) of the modernization project are and what the end result of a completed project should look like. Be sure to consider all technology enablers that may assist in solving key problem areas. For instance, determine if applications or services can be outsourced, cloud-based or eliminated altogether. In other words, take this time to clean house. Migrate older servers and operating systems to virtualized platforms redundantly attached to external Fibre Channel or iSCSI storage. Be sure to also consider desktop and application virtualization, as well as the physical assets located inside the data center. Moving to virtual desktops (thin clients), consolidating applications, or moving to a SaaS topology can also provide substantial cost savings.

Step 2 -- Conduct an equipment inventory and measurements of your existing data centers

In this step, the goal should be to catalog everything within the data center environment. This includes the organization's knowledge skills and abilities (KSAs). Document the roles, services and unitization rates for every server being used. Document the types and associations, as well as quantities of storage, network and security assets. Also, measure the floor space consumed by the equipment, number of racks, support gear and the total amount of power/cooling currently being consumed. Lastly, determine how services and applications are being delivered from the data center to the end user; i.e., type, method, bandwidth, thin, think or virtual.

Step 3 -- Develop detailed solutions to address project goals

At this point, begin to align the organizational goals against the current inventory of assets and data center locations. Working with all the stakeholders, strategize on what items can be modernized or consolidated first. Determine which data center locations can be closed, consolidated to or upgraded. And what servers, storage or applications can be eliminated or virtualized. Determine how best to continue to deliver applications and services to end users that are no longer geographically located near consolidated assets. Can these end user applications and services be outsourced, virtualized or eliminated? Do not worry about budgets at this point; the only objective here is identifying every potential solution that could address the high-level goals.

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