According to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, vendor revenue in the worldwide server market declined 4.6 percent year over year to $11.8 billion in the first quarter of 2017. That decline is clearly driven by data center consolidation and server consolidation more specifically. Server consolidation is a way to make a more efficient IT environment by combining servers or replacing legacy servers with virtual systems, like cloud or SaaS products. Server consolidation is exactly what it sounds like: It’s essentially consolidating hardware for more effective usage.
Due to the varying business drivers, the definition of server consolidation is broad and has evolved to encompass much more than running everything possible on as few servers as possible. What doesn’t change, regardless of the business drivers for server consolidation, is the benefits that businesses reap, which include:
- Controlling and reducing server sprawl
- Reductions in cooling and electrical costs
- Limiting server load growth and data center expansion
- Cost savings for warranties and licensing
- Lower hardware and software CAPEX
- Increased application business process and access functionality
- Business agility with the ability to leverage cloud and shared infrastructure
Strategic server consolidation is an effective way to lower the total cost of ownership of a company’s data center. Multiple methods of server consolidation can be applied independently or separately, all of which can reduce CAPEX and OPEX if planned and executed properly.
The most important part of a server consolidation initiative is the planning and analysis of end-user requirements, application requirements, and the server environment. Only by having a good understanding of the requirements and challenges of any given infrastructure can a beneficial server consolidation program be proposed, planned, and implemented. To start that journey, here are five important strategies for handling server consolidations:
Strategy #1: Virtualization
Although virtualization is not consolidation in the strictest sense, it is closely related. Virtualization tools such as partitions, virtual machines (VMs), and resource management software all enable multiple dominant workloads to run simultaneously on larger servers, which is a key aspect of server consolidation. Server consolidation with virtualization allows the flexibility to seamlessly migrate workloads between physical servers.
Strategy #2: Application and Dependency Mapping
With any planned data center migration, it’s imperative to start with identifying applications and workload destinations, as well as the dependencies between them. Identifying workloads is a foundational step to mapping all the applications running on data center hardware. In addition, this encompasses any outside servers that communicate with data center hardware or communication resources, which is an extensive and varied list for any business.
The application inventory provides a map of how interconnected your data center is, both inside your organization and outside your organization. While mapping application dependencies is crucial, it can be a time-consuming process if done manually and without skilled support. While there are numerous automation tools available to support the mapping and migration process, they still require the support of skilled personnel who have specialized skills in server consolidations and data center migrations.
Strategy #3: Pre- and Post-Migration Optimization and Testing
Successful application and workload migration require testing before cutover and production go live. The goal is to ensure that the application will perform as intended in its new location, which usually reflects multiple workloads on a single VM. Automation can allow you to test new workloads before they go live with real-time optimization and enable you to synchronize production changes that occur during testing, so you don’t have to copy the workload all over again.
Strategy #4: Automation Tools
Data-center-to-data-center migrations today are usually physical to virtual and virtual to virtual, so you're migrating workloads instead of shipping or rebuilding servers as part of server consolidation. Automation can efficiently and accurately copy physical and virtual servers without taking them offline.
When you add in the ability to synchronize changes that keep the virtual copy up to date while the original is still live in production via optimization, you significantly reduce the copying and testing portion of the migration process.
Strategy #5: An IT Services Support Partner
Clearly, server consolidation is a challenging process that can potentially disrupt business, under the best of circumstances. While large enterprises may have the IT staff to theoretically handle the process, they often lack the specialized skills, vendor relationships, and time to ensure success.
By utilizing managed IT services for server consolidations, businesses can eliminate the potential errors, the need to hire specialists, the costs of those hires, and the lack of third-party tools while incorporating the vendor relationships that are crucial to consolidation. Moreover, server consolidation is far from a one-size-fits-all endeavor, which means that each business and its consolidation process will need to have a customized approach that fits the timetables, business drivers, and IT infrastructure/data center requirements of that particular business.
The right managed IT services provider can deliver proven strategies for successful data center server consolidation that positions organizations for greater agility, business process throughput, security, and market competitiveness. These services ultimately drive lower CAPEX and OPEX that boost long-term profitability in numerous ways.
This rare subset of advanced managed services providers can offer a full suite of data center services for planning and strategic execution of everything starting with IT infrastructure and network assessment into the subsequent application mapping/consolidation/migration process. These skilled specialists can then continue the evolution seamlessly with tools and process implementation for post-consolidation testing, cutover, validation, and optimization phases.
While the benefits of server consolidations for a business are many, the process itself can be challenging, time-consuming, and costly without the right tools and the support to ensure the business can maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks. The right solutions partner can provide the tools and processes, as well as the guidance, skills, and expertise to ensure that server consolidation delivers operational and financial gains that make businesses stronger, leaner, and more agile.