Data Center Consolidation – Approach, Planning, & Risks

Park Place Technologies


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Mike Nicholis April 04, 2022

It seems that nearly every level of enterprise operation these days is being asked to do more with less. If you play a supporting role for your organization’s data center, this maxim holds especially true. A shrinking budget doesn’t pair well with growing expectations, so understandably, you’re searching for ways to reduce IT costs.

Could data center consolidation be the solution?

What Is Data Center Consolidation?

Data center consolidation and migration refers to the planning, strategies, technologies, and practices that provide more efficient, modern IT architectures that currently enable the world’s most effective businesses.

Consolidation can mean physically consolidating multiple data centers into fewer, or just a singular facility. Consolidating a data center can also refer to the ongoing practice of making a single data center run more effectively using fewer resources – often revising storage requirements to serve the path of digital transformation.

Importance of Data Center Consolidation

Progressive IT Leads refer to consolidation as a continual drive for achieving ongoing operational efficiencies that actively reduce the resources that their data center needs, delivered via a holistic approach that encompasses the entire infrastructure. This includes rationalization processes on how critical business data is utilized, accessed, and stored across the estate. It provides the opportunity for optimal data storage and access, as consolidation today is often more readily defined treatment of data first, data center assets second.

server consolidation approach

Successful organizations who adopt this approach operate within a formulated bespoke data center consolidation framework. This includes a full breakdown of the data center consolidation project plan, the first chapter of which always starts with a business case for boardroom buy-in.

Streamlining and rationalization of IT efficiencies in the data center isn’t a new concept. The principles are very similar to those adopted within server consolidation approaches over a decade ago. At the time, server virtualization meant physical consolidation of hardware and increasing the use of existing servers into more efficient virtual server farms for data processing. This was achieved by effectively abstracting applications from the underlying computing hardware.

This consolidation practice stemmed server sprawl and helped organizations move away from the endless rip and replace cycles as servers reached end of life. Server consolidation also allowed for flexible expansion on the fly, as new services and users could be brought online simply by adding new Virtual Machines (VMs) without additional server purchases. So as companies expanded through growth and mergers and acquisitions, so seamlessly could their IT provision.

According to Data Center Knowledge, a decent server virtualization strategy that saved energy and real estate costs by shrinking footprints really was the forerunner of a current and detailed data center consolidation methodology.

4 Benefits of Data Center Consolidation

Today, IT leads have the option to move data and workloads to the cloud, or another increasingly popular option is a hybrid mixed approach of on and off-prem. Data consolidation doesn’t mean the death of the data center. In fact, due to increased levels of technology adoption, 5G networks, Industry 4.0 and IOT, spending on data centers is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.9% up until 2025.

CIOs therefore face a continued challenge to do drive greater business benefits through data empowerment but with a lower footprint.

1. DCIM Cost Savings

One of the top consolidation benefits noted in any boardroom are DCIM cost savings.

Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is the culmination of data center operations and IT, applied to achieve optimal data center performance. This includes monitoring and management of data center elements like power distribution, storage, servers, and network equipment, to realize efficiencies by using a ‘Remove and Replace’ methodology for redundant or sub-optimal equipment.

This includes enhanced capacity provisioning and termination of redundant licenses without risk through detailed dependency mapping. Assets within the data center can also be closely regulated allowing significant stretch of IT hardware that has reached its end of service life but can still be utilized through the right accredited support partner.

2. Fewer Software Platforms to Manage

Consolidation also means fewer software platforms to manage. Eliminating redundancy between applications offering similar competitive features can result in greater productivity savings for the IT team.

For example, if you’re consolidating from multiple locations to a single location, you can eliminate redundant instances of your Network Monitoring Software and DCIM tools. If you’re simply paring down within your existing facility, you may be able to downsize the license for whatever suite your System Administration team is using today.

data center consolidation steps - server room

3. Less Data Center Hardware to Manage

Consolidating your operations can also mean fewer assets within your data center physical infrastructure. Using less data center equipment entails fewer devices to monitor and control. This can lead to synergies across the board, such as:

4. Fewer Locations to Manage

Benefits mount further still when there are fewer geographically dispersed physical locations to manage. Perhaps the most obvious advantage is having to support fewer leases. However, each location carries a less obvious baseline cost for energy consumption and staffing that can be eliminated after merging operations into a single data center with one support team.

Data Center Consolidation Project Plan

There are significant complexities in data center consolidation that need careful and detailed data center consolidation planning from the outset. A data center consolidation project plan that incorporates all stakeholders will act as a blueprint for delivery of the data center consolidation steps to come.

At this stage in the process, trusted data center partners for service delivery should be mobilized to assist in hands-on consolidation and migration.

Map Your Network

Likely first on any data center consolidation services provision will be a mapping of the existing estate. This should be dynamic, holistic (and incorporate existing cloud environments) and encompassing of all entities (including remote locations, companies acquired through M&A, and global sites).

Realistically, this can only be achieved using best of breed network mapping software that allows complete and easy visualization of network inventory – including assets, incidents, severity and likely ramifications. Mapping will form a multi-layered map that consolidates server information into a single server topology globally showing network paths, services, and instances in one view.

Migration Planning and Contingencies

Once you have a full inventory of your data center assets, you need to develop a thorough plan with built-in contingencies. Most aspects of enterprises today depend on exhaustive server uptime, so any blip in service can have a dramatic impact.

You need to be ready for unexpected events such as:

  • Incompatible legacy software and new hardware
  • Supply issues for power and cooling at the target location
  • Lower than expected levels of security during transit and setup
  • A skills gap for an enterprise-level data center consolidation project

As with all change management, practices and reviews should be conducted frequently and rehearsed prior to migration rollout. Having a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place before execution is essential.

Architecture and Design

The design of your consolidated data center will ultimately depend on your business requirements. Depending on your tech stack, you will not have to start from scratch. Many of the leading OEMs provide reference architectures that you can leverage to build out your consolidated site.

For example, this HPE Reference helps walk customers through validated configurations so that you’re no recreating the wheel.

Depending on your budget, prefabricated data center layouts exist that you can leverage within your facility. This may even help you scale up and down within your new consolidated facility when your utilization and capacity needs change.

Data Center Build

Once your consolidation plan is ready and your contingencies have been explored, you can assemble your execution team. Your team needs to account for IT teardown and setup, logistics, procurement, and contracting professionals at a minimum.

Depending on the scale of your project, you may need a partner for secure ITAD as well.

If you’re engaging in any new construction, the project may require extensive outside help for construction, legal counsel, real estate guidance, project management, energy consulting, and so forth.

Regardless of size, it will be important to understand the scope and responsibilities of involved parties, the dispute resolution process, and what to do if timelines aren’t met.

Data Center Consolidation Risks

Once you have a thoughtful data center consolidation approach in place, an elected service partner can help you produce and deliver a data center consolidation checklist for planning and threat evaluation. Common threats include loss of data, downtime of systems and applications, and breaches in normal data regulatory practices.

Downtime

Downtime can result for any number of reasons. Not having an adequate primary or backup power supply, missing data backups, delayed data migrations, and natural disasters are common causes of downtime and the room for error is only amplified during a consolidation.

Loss of Data

Because physical and virtual environments are in flux during the process of data center consolidation, it’s not impossible for data to be lost. A larger facility absorbing a smaller data center is one thing but combining several legacy facilities into a new enterprise facility becomes significantly more complex.

Ensuring data redundancy before the data center relocation leg of the project is critical. Using a professional storage migration service can help eliminate room for error.

Compromised Data Security

Because many technical systems within a facility are likely a work in progress, physical data center security could be insufficient. There are many margins for error, so be sure to emphasize security during your data center consolidation planning.

Leverage the Right Infrastructure Partners During Your Consolidation

Consolidation can seem like an insurmountable task carrying a high workload, which is why some companies shy away from the process. The benefits however are far reaching. To tap straight into the benefits and bypass consolidation adoption issues, seek out a reputable global data center and networking optimization firm.

Park Place Technologies offers data center hardware, post-warranty maintenance, professional services, data center infrastructure managed services, and enterprise network monitoring software – all from a single source. Eliminate the hassle of working with multiple vendors, and let our team help you find efficiencies in your IT operations today!

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About the Author

Mike Nicholis,
As Vice President of Professional Services Sales at Park Place, Mike Nicholis oversees the sales activities for the entire portfolio of Professional Services offerings globally. Mike leads a team of seasoned Professional Services sales veterans with decades of experience providing data center and IT services to businesses of all sizes. Mike is an experienced leader with 25+ years in operations, consulting, and professional services sales and delivery. Mike has a proven track record of building high-performing organizations focused on delivering exceptional solutions and service to customers to ensure exceptional customer value. Mike previously led the Professional Services Delivery organization at Curvature prior to its acquisition by Park Place.