How to Strategically Transform Your Data Center

Ashish Nadkarni

IT departments in all companies large and small are continually under pressure to minimize costs. Data centers are the latest areas to come under the magnifying glass and for good reason. IT departments have considered data centers to be "sunk costs" and therefore have not paid much attention to running them efficiently.

And when I say efficiently, I do not simply mean from an energy consumption perspective. Efficiently can and should mean all aspects of the technology and staff that impact the overall 'consumption' of the data center. The pressure for these adjustments comes from management urging their IT departments to manage growth while doing more with less. In such bothersome times, ignoring one of IT's most valuable assets, i.e., your data centers, will come at an expensive price-long-term costs. That is simply unacceptable. However, companies do not need to do this alone. They can seek outside help from experts who can help them get to where they need to be.

GlassHouse, for example, recommends that companies embark on a multi-pronged, multi-year journey to highly efficient, consolidated and optimized data centers that form the 'physical' platform on which their IT infrastructure literally runs. This journey should start with a tactical assessment of the existing assets and an effort to change how they are operated. These existing assets should also be complemented by investments in newer assets.

Companies should start with a data center energy audit. While this audit itself is not going to offer any solutions directly, it can offer a lot of perspective on how the data center is operating and provides a foundation for further improvements. This audit should become the basis for a multi-phase project plan.

The next step is to embark on space optimization and footprint consolidation. By 'cleaning up' the data center floor space, companies can and should try to improve their energy consumption even before introducing new technology into the mix. Cabling and other physical runs can be optimized, air flow can be improved and all unnecessary gear should be removed from the floor.

The next step is to start evaluating and implementing technology that improves optimization. By utilizing technology such as ultra-dense servers, server virtualization, rack optimized hardware and software to manage consumption correctly, companies can ensure that over time their data centers are transformed into lean, mean machines that do not have a speck of wasteful consumption.

Finally, not everyone needs to be in the business of running a data center. Are there too many data centers or too much overhead to manage? Try cloud services. Cloud services are no longer a niche service. They are serious business and offer a very viable alternative for outsourcing critical functions such as e-mail, collaboration and other forms of unstructured data. But a word of caution-start small and be consistent.

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