• United States

Consolidation without tears

Apr 13, 20043 mins
Data Center

* Tips for beginning data center consolidation

Data center consolidation has been a top IT priority for several years, for good reason. As noted in previous newsletters, consolidating data centers can reduce operational costs, simplify management, and – if done right – improve overall reliability and performance.

The operative phrase here is “if done right.” Most IT shops don’t get the process entirely right, and suffer as a result. Herewith, some tips passed along by the survivors:

First off, make sure to sanity-check the motivation for data center consolidation. Most of the time, the goal is to save money – but will it? Create a high-level architecture and perform a high-level cost-of-ownership assessment to be sure cost savings are even feasible. One IT organization I worked with several years ago had to reverse a consolidation effort midstream when it became apparent that the increased cost of bandwidth negated the potential management cost savings of consolidating 10 data centers down to two (this was in Europe, and the firm was coping with cross-country bandwidth tariffs).

Next, make sure you benchmark two critical items: application performance and the current level of reliability and redundancy. Why? You’ll want to be able to demonstrate that the new architecture delivers applications as reliably and effectively as the old one. The only way to prove it is to benchmark. Measure response times (median, minimum, maximum) and availability. And assess the disaster redundancy of the existing data center.

Third, inventory your assets. If you haven’t invested in an automated inventory-management systems, now is an excellent time to do so. (Making pencil notes on clipboards is so 20th century.) Make sure to capture configuration and state information. And don’t limit your definition of “inventory” to server, storage and infrastructure hardware. Include applications, security solutions and facilities.

At the same time, you can begin your new data center design. Over the coming months you’ll hear a lot about products and technologies that can make data center operations more effective and easier. As you build out your new design, you’ll want to consider some of them. But keep in mind: this is NOT the time to do a total technology refresh. Change too many variables, and chaos results.

As you implement the consolidation, keep in mind that project managers are your best friends. Seasoned technical project managers are a rare breed, and most organizations don’t have enough. Make sure you have enough on your team.

Finally, once you’ve completed the consolidation, you’ll need to benchmark applications and reliability once more – to validate the fact that performance and reliability have improved (or at worst, remained the same).

Many organizations undertake application consolidation as part of the data center consolidation exercise. Once again, avoiding pitfalls is key. Find out how from Principal Analyst Melanie Turek in next week’s Data Center newsletter. And finally, don’t forget to catch the next Network World New Data Center Tech Tour on April 27 in Denver or April 29 in San Diego (see to register.) Hope to see you there!

Johnson can be reached at