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Server Consolidation: Why Less is More

The task of consolidating your data centers may seem daunting, but what you'll get is infinitely better than what you're giving up.

Downsizing Your Domain

Whether in the data center or home sweet home, the idea of "less is more" can improve your quality of life. In fact, taking on a server-consolidation project is a lot like moving from a sprawling suburban colonial to a minimalist city loft. It's a lifestyle change, and adjustments are required. Adjustment 1: No pets allowed

In a loft, there's no turf for Fido to frolic in. Likewise, to fully realize the benefits of server consolidation, individual departments must give up their pet server projects. To implement this, you will have to play politics. Get upper management firmly behind you before business-unit administrators catch even a whiff of what you're planning. That may sound harsh, but if too much FUD is inserted into executive ears before you present your case, you're toast.

Take advantage of the resources available to help you build your case. All major server vendors have tools and documentation to assist you, not only in making the overall decision but also when consolidating to a particular platform. In its BluePrints series, for example, Sun offers a useful book called Consolidation in the Data Center (see www.sun.com/solutions/blueprints). Dell, HP and IBM all have dedicated server-consolidation services. It may seem extravagant to employ such a service, but IT's biggest hurdle usually is getting upper management to sign off on funding, whether because of the aforementioned political pressure from department administrators or a fear that it's just another "technology for technology's sake" project. In fact, the reality couldn't be further from the truth: It's all about your server farm's TCO (total cost of ownership) and the ROI for the consolidation project. A reduction in TCO is the main cost motivation, and indeed, 68 percent of Gartner conference attendees polled said their organizations have saved money via their consolidation initiatives.

In terms of ROI, there are many benefits to server consolidation. First, there's administrative time-savings. Each server requires a number of tasks be performed on a yearly, monthly, weekly or daily basis. For example, dreaded annual tasks include physical inventory, such as serial-number verification and machine-configuration recording, and software inventories to keep up those licensing schemes. Monthly (at least) tasks include software updates, utilization monitoring and OS security monitoring. And don't forget weekly utilization tracking and daily verification of nightly backups of each machine. All these tasks take administrative time. (Remember, though, that there are multiple administrative levels, and tasks are often split. Don't count everything at the top pay grade.) Reducing head count has not proved to be a major source of savings--it's cited by only 23 percent of those surveyed by Gartner. But being able to redirect talent can lead to cost avoidance down the road.

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