While there can be numerous benefits derived from data center consolidation, realizing them requires a defined set of outcomes and a clear strategy. Achieving those benefits can be hampered by challenges such as those associated with user base application access, the associated security concerns and the disruption to the enterprise that the consolidation process can bring overall. There are also a number of short-term and long-term costs (both hidden and obvious) that require a detailed plan of execution and long-term strategy.
Although every organization has a unique set of requirements for its operations, security, and the downtime it can tolerate during the transition, there are universal steps that an organization must take to ensure it can move as smoothly as possible from planning to full realization. Here are the six steps you must take for a successful data center consolidation.
Step #1: Business Planning
Establishing business objectives and technology goals requires an understanding of need across the enterprise, including requirements for data processing, storage and back-up, continuity of operations, future expansion, and so on. Such planning also identifies the new organizational structures and processes that will be needed to support the consolidated data centers.
Step #2: Discovery
Once goals are in place, an organization must have a clear and detailed picture of the data center assets including servers, storage devices, network devices, multi-tier applications, and middleware. This means not only mapping the physical aspects of the data center but also mapping applications and their dependencies. This process can be both time- and resource-consuming in terms of IT personnel, who likely have a full plate of daily tasks and projects required to keep the business running smoothly.
Step #3: Dependency Mapping
The mapping of physical assets precedes the next important step of mapping the interdependencies and has a major impact on asset consolidation for the most effective and efficient use. The goal is to determine the best plan based on capacity analysis, application dependencies, and business requirements. All of the interdependencies must be mapped to create a transition schedule that provides minimal disruption and ensures that mission-critical services are delivered as needed.
Step #4: Capacity Planning
Identifying and planning capacity is an important consideration of data center consolidation. It’s essential to plan sufficient capacity for workloads post-consolidation and account for spikes in demand, as well as anticipated growth. The goal is to accurately analyze the performance of your server assets in terms of applications and workloads. To do that, you must understand and account for the normal performance fluctuations that regularly happen based on a particular time of day, week or month.
Armed with application dependency data, you can begin capacity planning and performance analysis, which will indicate how to combine workloads on virtual systems to best use the consolidated capacity during peak times. This also is the basis for determining workloads across multiple data centers for optimum consolidation into fewer data center locations. Having a clear consolidation plan enables you to compare possible consolidation scenarios and determine the best combination of physical, virtual, and cloud assets.
Step #5: Implementation
At this stage, you’re ready to begin consolidating the infrastructure defined in your plan, which will include both physical and virtual systems, and the application infrastructure on top of those systems. Individual services may span multiple servers, network and storage devices, applications, and data centers.
Consequently, service deployment may require complex orchestration to sequence service components across these multiple assets. If your organization is large, you will have to deploy hundreds, or even thousands, of physical and virtual servers.
Solutions are available to automate the deployment of servers, networks, and applications based on policies. Look for a solution that not only deploys changes, but that also verifies successful deployment and tracks and logs deployment activities for auditing purposes. The solution should be able to orchestrate functions across multiple systems and deliver the full application stack in a flexible and consistent way.
Step #6: Management and Continuous Optimization
Only with effective management can you realize the full benefits of data center consolidation. Today, enterprises are utilizing a hybrid cloud model with both public and private cloud elements that require seamless organizational access. This can be for anything from everyday business processes where different different departments or even divisions have differentiated needs to application development teams that may or may not be working on the same projects.
This requires the implementation of full lifecycle management of virtual and cloud-based systems as well as physical server assets. Because applications and workloads are not static, this also requires continual optimization to ensure that application access and capacity are adjusted to changing and ongoing business needs.
Data center consolidation by its very nature can be a complex and disruptive process even with proper planning and full strategy development. Both large and small enterprises are often unaware of the strains on employees’ time and IT resources, and the hidden costs that come with consolidation.
A unified approach and support from a skilled managed IT services provider can deliver the consultative support, expertise, and necessary third-party vendor solution partnership for unified planning and execution. By following this best practices approach, with support from a seasoned managed IT services provider, organizations can realize data center consolidation that brings greater efficiency, flexibility, cost savings, and capacity for future growth—fueling success over time.