Four steps to utility

* How to get from here to utility computing

On the road to a flexible data center, there are four major steps: consolidation, standardization, virtualization and utility. Whether we look at storage, computing, networking or identity management, the same four steps can lead to a utility- and service-oriented architecture.

Each 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 also bring benefits, especially in the form of reduced operational costs and greater agility.

Let’s examine the four steps as they apply to some of the key technologies within the data center:


* Consolidate storage to a few data centers and aggregate across business units to reduce operational costs and complexity.

* Standardize on as few protocols and standards as possible: SAN for block storage, NAS gateways to translate SAN into file storage, WAFS for remote offices and users.

* Virtualize storage to abstract the details of storage from the applications using it. Use virtual SANs for isolation and manage virtual pools of storage as a single, consolidated system.

* For utility, add tiers of service (silver, gold, platinum) and associate costs and SLAs to deliver storage as a service. Compare your costs with outsourced utility storage providers.


* Consolidate servers to the minimum possible number of machines and operating systems. Decrease complexity and improve utilization.

* Standardize your operating system images and provisioning systems. Adopt common practices across business units.

* Virtualize with clustering and partitioning technology so that servers can be managed independently of their physical configurations. House multiple applications on larger servers to reduce cost and increase utilization.

* For utility, create tiers of service (silver, gold, platinum) with associated SLAs and costs.


* If possible (since this can be politically difficult), consolidate identity stores (directories and databases), aggregating across business units. Centralize management of identity as much as possible.

* Standardize on a few key protocols that allow you to pursue your application strategy and open the door for federation (e.g. LDAP, SAML, Liberty Alliance). Reduce costs on application development and management.

* Virtualize your directory services to provide consistent service to applications independently of the identity store. Use virtualization to simplify application development and to spur further directory consolidation.

* For utility, associate costs and SLAs with managing the user-identity lifecycle. Use identity federation to allow interoperability with partners and customers.

Data center managers and CIOs will find it difficult to persuade the business units to give up some control in return for greater flexibility. Instead of presenting an ambitious vision of the next-generation data center - which may be perceived as too risky - identify the benefits of each step (consolidation, standardization, virtualization and utility) and the main areas of difficulty (storage, computing, identity, network or security). 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.


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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