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Consolidation's Downsides

I was chatting with a storage vendor the other day who noted that fourth-quarter profits were better than anything his company had seen in the past few years. I asked him what was behind the uptick in spending, and he summarized it in one word: Consolidation.

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To hear him tell it, customers found money to spend at the end of the year, and the industry reaped the rewards of a couple of years of evangelizing the consolidation is good” story. Okay, I responded. So, why is it that a lot of smart guys in the trenches are telling me that consolidation is the worst thing that ever happened to them?

I quoted a CTO for a major storage company, who probably would prefer not to be named, since his mother company has just issued a white paper explaining why storage consolidation is a really good idea. According to this fellow: “The economic gain rule just doesn’t apply in storage.” My vendor listener was, at this point, struggling to extricate himself from the discussion.

Server consolidation, I went on, seems to have its place. You have a bunch of older servers sitting around, and you basically (and judiciously) consolidate the applications running on them onto a smaller number of higher-performance boxes with multi-core processors and fatter buses. I can see the wisdom of that, provided you have considered access patterns to the applications and other factors such as heat (especially in blades), impact on disaster recovery plans, etc. Even virtualization in the server space might make sense, since it affords a way to partition and to share resources more efficiently and more manageably.

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