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Data center consolidation and stripping the branch office

Feb 14, 20063 mins
Data Center

* Two trends at work on data centers

Most companies today are caught in the crosswinds of two significant trends: consolidation and centralization of IT systems, vs. distribution and de-centralization of employees.

Fewer than 10% of employees work at headquarters in the average company. Meanwhile, a high proportion of companies are centralizing IT assets in a data center. So if all your employees are moving away from HQ and all your servers are moving away from the branches and towards the data center, IT service delivery becomes a “wide area” issue.

When we ask participants in our data center research to identify which types of servers they choose to leave in branch offices, the answer is invariably “only anything we can’t move yet.”

The only limitations to the consolidation trend seems to come from technology barriers or organizational barriers. Either the services cannot be delivered efficiently over the WAN, or the business units are fiercely protective of their turf and want to keep their own servers. Everything else is moved to the data center where it can be centrally monitored, backed up and configured by centralized IT staff. I can almost imagine the branch office with the lighter spots and holes in the carpet where the racks of servers used to be.

Here are some of the strategic choices you must make when facing these trends:

* Can you instill a “shared-services” culture in your company so that business units feel comfortable with some loss of control over their servers?

* Can you efficiently deliver services over the WAN to far-flung employees?

* Do you need consolidated security devices or bandwidth optimization devices in the branch office to make your data center strategy work?

* How will your branches operate if there is a WAN failure? Do you need to add capacity or redundant circuits and diverse service providers to maintain higher availability?

* How do you create a balance between the low bandwidth requirements of a thin client vs. the flexibility of a full-blown application? How do those choices affect bandwidth requirements and server requirements?

* Can you manage all or most of your infrastructure remotely?

* Can you monitor all remote devices centrally?

Consolidation of IT resources has been proceeding at a rapid pace. But few organizations have had a comprehensive strategy in place to manage this transition. If you are reacting to external and internal forces, without a master plan for consolidation, you may run into problems. At least you are not alone – all your competitors are probably facing the same pressures.