As mergers and acquisitions (M&A) increase, more IT departments will be faced with data center consolidation. Although it’s common practice for the acquired company to adopt the data center practices of the parent company, consolidation still requires detailed evaluation of current equipment, processes, and personnel.No matter the size of the merger, integrating each organization’s existing hardware and software into a unified and efficient system is challenging. In addition to managing backend integration, companies must also consider how consolidating servers will influence their bottom line. Here are five tips to handle data center consolidation during an acquisition:
1. Define Business Drivers of the Consolidation
Every M&A is different with different business drivers and projected outcomes. A constant factor is that the data center consolidation is expected to maximize data usage for operational purposes while minimizing costs and redundancies. To do that, IT organizations must examine the current state of the new businesses. That means taking a hard look at the way the organization operates and the needs of individual departments, as well as current company goals and configurations.
Data center consolidations are primarily driven by application needs and how the data is used across departments, and the need for accessibility across the parent company and the newly acquired company. Depending on the industry, there may be data-retention and other regulatory compliance considerations that will shape the pre- and post-consolidation plan on a number of levels.
Having a full understanding of how information flows through departments and what the company growth model looks like will help determine mission-critical applications, secondary applications, and identify redundant list items.
The role of custom applications that serve process flow needs should be assessed for integration needs with the new entity as part of the data center consolidation, with the understanding that a hybrid cloud model will be part of the process. Each application and its dependencies must be mapped to determine where it will reside in the post-acquisition and post-migration timeframes.
2. Assess Your Data/Understand Application Dependencies
Developing an end-state data center consolidation strategy requires a complete understanding of the computing, networking, storage, and security aspects of each application and workload. This is a complex process due to the need to map application dependencies. This process can be a drain on IT personnel time, but there are software solutions that can automate the process.
By thoroughly assessing data and application dependencies, businesses can accurately determine what to migrate at which times, and understand the best way to do it. Regardless of the migration destination, businesses must thoroughly understand application dependencies to ensure that the migration process is successful. It is critical to track and document the data dependencies in the pre-migration stage to ensure that everything works when it reaches its final destination.
3. Develop a Migration Plan
By identifying and mapping the applications and workloads, businesses can group applications for optimal sequencing during migration. Since downtime must be avoided, the migration plan will require scheduling application migrations at a time that poses the least impact to the business in terms of downtime. Some methods for live migration can be considered as part of the migration plan.
Overall, businesses will need to consider a phased approach when migrating applications over to a public or private cloud as part of data center consolidation. By first diagramming current storage platforms and disaster recovery locations, businesses can determine final objectives. A number of factors must be determined before creating a migration plan, such as:
- Identifying and assessing security and compliance needs
- Merging security practices
- Considering data governance issues
- Testing for vulnerabilities
Once the migration is complete, it’s crucial to evaluate whether all applications are operating as intended. Post-migration/pre-cutover testing is vital for ensuring that applications and workloads function as intended.
Ensure that all data arrived at the new environment so that users can access applications and internal components can communicate without error, which requires load testing. Load testing ensures proper auto-scaling functionality and validates the new environment’s ability to handle the projected load while also identifying maximum connections before it fails.
4. Document All Migration Activities and Test Plans
Migration processes can be complex under the best of circumstances, but acquisitions can make the process more challenging. To ensure that the migration process goes smoothly while everyone understands their role, it’s imperative to document the migration and testing process.
This process is a crucial step toward aligning different migration stages for pre-migration activities and creating a detailed infrastructure and application testing plan for post-migration. Equally important is that the process defines the roles of all personnel, during and after the migration process. By streamlining the migration process using the right tools, expertise, and automation, businesses can lower OPEX before and after the migration and consolidation by reducing wasted IT personnel time on redundant tasks.
5. Identify Redundant Hardware and Software to Reduce Post-Acquisition Costs
In the post-consolidation phase, the data center environment of the newly integrated business will have nonproductive servers that are consuming power, space, and cooling. The migration and consolidation plan will need to outline an approach for either reassigning the unused servers for new operational needs or decommissioning servers to prevent them from consuming power. Some applications and software will also become redundant due to a move toward SaaS solutions to lower CAPEX.
While these five ways to handle data center consolidation are crucial, they are part of a more complex process. Because of the countless variables involved in an acquisition, businesses in general (and IT teams specifically) are left in a position where personnel, budgets, and timetables are all stressed to their limits.
Without prior data center migration expertise and the tools to ensure a streamlined and successful end state, businesses are left in a difficult position. Many businesses in this position will partner with a MSP that has comprehensive data center services and cloud services expertise. This will ensure that the post-acquisition business is agile and has operational flexibility to lower costs while increasing business opportunities.