Next Step in Consolidation: The Data Center

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Seven Barriers to Server Consolidation

We set out to find what is holding back server consolidation, in the hope that identifying the problems will spur a stronger drive to overcome them-and produce a leaner, meaner data center in the end.

If the recession did one thing for the IT industry, it started the ball rolling toward a leaner, meaner enterprise. Through virtualization-fueled consolidation, organizations are quickly gaining the means to do more with less, cutting operating costs and carbon emissions in the process.

But now that server and network architectures within the data center are being streamlined, many CIOs are looking ahead to the next step: consolidation of entire fleets of data centers into a more manageable few. The good news is that this will generate a lot of work for IT professionals. Then again, the bad news is that it will generate a lot of work for IT professionals.

No one will have a busier time at it than federal IT workers, however. The government is preparing to implement a five-year plan to trim its data center count by 40 percent-some 800 facilities-by 2015. The plan affects nearly every federal agency, including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and is said to rely heavily on virtualization, cloud computing and open source technology. As can be expected, though, logistical issues are extremely complicated and it is unclear whether the entire program can be accomplished on schedule.

For many organizations, data center consolidation comes with the luxury of building entire new facilities from scratch. In these cases, design considerations for both the physical center and the data architecture is paramount. As IBM's Chris Malloy points out, modularity will be one of the key design elements in a consolidated infrastructure, which can manifest itself in everything from facility layout and room design to network trunking and server/storage racks.

Successful consolidations are enabled by several key factors, according to IT consultant Debasish Chanda. Among them are a new core networking infrastructure that is VLAN-ready and provides instant access to new IP addresses, and a healthy virtual environment that allows for smooth migration of virtual servers. But pay close attention to how you will handle tasks like asset and application mapping and business continuity. The more you leave to manual processes, the longer the consolidation process will be. But don't lock yourself into an inflexible automation system either, as the process is bound to produce some unexpected developments.

Consider data center consolidation the IT equivalent of a root canal: No one wants to do it, but life is much more pleasant afterward.

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