Consolidation: first step to utility

* Data center consolidation across technologies

On the road to a flexible data center, there are four major steps: consolidation, standardization, virtualization and utility. In this article, we will examine the challenges and implications of embarking on the first step: consolidation.

A funny thing is happening in enterprises today. While companies are becoming increasingly distributed and virtualized - employees working remotely from their managers, virtual teams, teleworkers and home offices - data centers are becoming more centralized. Data center managers are pressured to reduce costs, reduce complexity and increase availability. To achieve these goals, they must consolidate data centers into as few as possible. We have seen some cases where more than 60 data centers have been consolidated down to four data centers.


Consolidate storage to a few data centers and aggregate across business units to reduce operational costs and complexity. Where possible, migrate servers’ direct-attached storage (DAS or simply “disks inside the servers”) to networked storage such as network-attached storage (NAS file servers) or storage-area networks (SAN block-level “storage arrays”). Another approach is to use NAS gateways, devices that use block storage (SAN) in the back-end but offer it up as virtual file storage (NAS) to applications.


Consolidate servers to the minimum possible number of machines and operating systems. Decrease complexity and improve utilization. Where possible, run multiple non-essential services on a single server. Examine blade-server technology to see whether it fits your business strategy.


Consolidate WANs by removing legacy connections as you roll over yearly contracts. MPLS technology allows you to run a variety of services such as data, voice and video on a single WAN cloud with full separation and quality of service. Nemertes ROI studies show that MPLS can be a very cost-effective replacement for frame relay and ATM links to the branch offices.


Security is one of the most fragmented technology markets. The first step towards consolidation is to aggregate the alerts generated by security systems into a single system for security-event response. On the organizational side, companies should build processes to ensure that security events are classified and handled consistently and rapidly. Another area for security consolidation is identity management, where you should focus on consolidating multiple identity stores (LDAP, Microsoft Active Directory and various databases).

A company may choose one of these areas - say, storage - to start on the virtualization roadmap. Some companies may attempt to push all aspects of the data center towards virtualization. While the effort is not without challenges, it can bring benefits, especially in the form of reduced operational costs and greater agility.

Data center managers and CIOs will find it difficult to persuade the business units to give up some control in return for greater flexibility. Focus your efforts on the areas of greatest cost and take it one step at a time. By creating a detailed roadmap, you can show the benefits of discreet and achievable steps without having to evangelize a hard-to-see future. In the next few articles we will expand on this topic and examine the details of the next three steps: standardization, virtualization and utility. Stay tuned.


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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