Cashing In On Consolidation's Promise Of Less-Is-More

Today, a variety of business factors are encouraging businesses to at least evaluate consolidating their server and storage infrastructures. Here are five pointers to help you.

February 9, 2004

3 Min Read
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Today, a variety of business factors are encouraging businesses to at least evaluate consolidating their server and storage infrastructures.

"We are seeing IT consolidation as a driving force these days," said Tim Golden, director of marketing and communications, HP Industry Standard Servers at Hewlett Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif. "We went through a period of 10 years of dropping server and storage costs, but in the past two years management [of those systems] has become a problem. Two years of economic downturn has made consolidation even more attractive as IT organizations need to make their dollars go further. It's not just a Fortune 500 thing--We are seeing a desire to consolidate at small, medium and mom-and-pop installations as well."

Consolidating server and storage solutions can generate significant benefits. "Consolidation directly cuts administration and maintenance costs, as well as the cost of software licenses," said Ken Won, marketing director, Datacenter Marketing, Enterprise System Products, at Sun Microsystems, Menlo Park, Calif. "Recently, customers are also coming to us with an interest in making sure that their environments are highly secure and available. An environment that includes [a large number of servers and applications] is hard to put a security wrapper around." To make the most of the consolidation opportunities though, IT organizations need to avoid several common pitfalls.

Myth #1: We can do it on our own.
Consolidation is more than just moving everything onto fewer servers. A professional can help assess an organization's true needs and outline a plan of attack. "There can be a magnitude of difference between a customer-initiated consolidation where they do most of the work vs. one where they have hired [a professional services organization]," said Jay Bretzmann, manager, IBM eServer products, at IBM Corp., Raleigh, N.C. "A professional brings experienced gained over many engagements as well as a variety of tools that translate into dramatic server reductions."

Myth #2: The biggest challenge to consolidation is technical.
In fact, getting buy-in from business units and departments may be harder than finding the right products and services to achieve consolidation. The key is to get top-level management on board with some solid examples of business benefits. "Getting the business unit to agree to consolidate is a difficult thing," said Sun's Won. "If IT doesn't have support at the CXO level, we see projects fail. Conversations at that level have little to do with technology"IT has to be talking business level benefits." The overarching message should stress the ability to reduce spending on infrastructure in order to deploy new services that will generate income, he adds.Myth #3: Consolidation is merely a hardware issue.
Businesses also should standardize whenever possible. Reducing the number of operating systems, databases, platform vendors, and so on, translates directly into simplified management and reduced costs.

Myth #4: What's good for me is good for the company.
"The most successful consolidation practices are optimized for the whole company not a business unit or an application," said Won. "What's important is the company as a whole: its direction and strategy. The way things are done should flow out of that." By creating a single way of doing things across the enterprise, companies can streamline support and deployment of technology. "If you try to optimize each little piece, then you have drastically sub-optimized the whole Enterprise," said Chris Wood, director, technical sales and marketing, Global Network Sales, at Sun's Newark, Calif., office. "Any differences make it harder to transfer applications or system administration personnel."

Myth #5: I have to get all new equipment to do it right.
"If I had one message to people it would be to avoid rip and replace," said Marco Coulter, vice president, BrightStore Strategy at Computer Associates International Inc., Islandia, N.Y. "The total bill at the end, when you consider staff time and training, will be higher." The better option is to consolidate in stages as part of usual equipment upgrades.

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