Consolidating Infrastructure

In many organizations, technical infrastructure, defined generally as server, storage, and networking capability and capacity is deployed on an as-needed basis in response to additional requirements such as the deployment of services, applications or web sites. The frequent result of this organic approach to infrastructure is a data center environment comprised of a wide variety of makes, models, and configurations located in a variety of locations.

Organizations with little or no proactive infrastructure capability or capacity planning often benefit from a targeted effort to consolidate infrastructure while standardizing the platforms used to provide resources.  Further, the concurrent implementation of consolidated and standardized planning and administration processes frequently adds business benefits in addition to lowered investment in equipment and support resources. Consolidation of infrastructure frequently enables an organization to:

  • Minimize unnecessary investments in over capacity.

  • Lower data center related support expenses.

  • Optimize the utilization of server, storage, and other resources and implement better capacity planning.

  • Improve the leverage of resources and skill sets.

  • Reduce downtime and increase service levels through a more flexible operating environment.

  • Facilitate the establishment of metrics-based service level agreements.

  • Simplify the planning associated with disaster recovery and business continuity planning.

  • Reduce individual location-based infrastructure requirements.

The realization of these benefits from infrastructure consolidation often results in immediate and long term savings for IT organizations.

Consolidating Server Infrastructure

The consolidation of server infrastructure can occur across a number of dimensions, with increasing levels of complexity and savings.  These are typically represented by several levels of opportunity:

  1. Consolidating servers that host the same applications.

  2. Consolidating servers across applications that share common application components, such as databases and other software services that maintain compatible characteristics.

  3. Consolidating servers that host development or test environments used for application programming or integration.

  4. Migrating disparate applications to a single platform consisting of a single or reduced set of vendors and server models for the purposes of further consolidation. For example, this activity might include migrating some applications from one flavor of UNIX to another, if supported.

  5. Leveraging ‘virtual’ environments in which applications run in separate instances of an operating system on a single server using virtualization software from a handful of vendors.

  6. Consolidating data center locations. This activity might include the closure of multiple data centers and/or ‘server closets’ and the relocation of the infrastructure to a reduced number of locations.

Organizations sometimes face a variety of challenges in implementing the above types of consolidation.  For example, an organization’s level of decentralized IT control may limit its ability to accomplish even the simplest of consolidation activities. Additionally bandwidth constraints at one or more remote locations may limit the ability to locate servers off-site.  However, in most cases, even level one and some level two activities result in material savings for an organization.

Consolidating Storage Infrastructure

Similar to server environments, storage capacity may also exist independently at various locations and in a variety of forms including disks internal to each server, direct attached storage units, or even multiple storage area networks (SANs).  Additionally, tape storage capacity may also exist in a range of internal, direct attached, and network-attached tape libraries.

When storage infrastructure evolves organically over time, different locations or different IT teams frequently address storage needs in disparate ways with solutions acquired from different vendors supplying different technologies.  The result is often a growing disparity in storage technologies that further inhibit future opportunities for consolidation and centralized management. In environments such as this, organizations often find themselves continuing to invest in new storage capacity when existing resources already possess sufficient unused capacity, but are too silo’d to be used outside their originally intended purpose.

The implementation of enterprise-wide hierarchical storage architectures, which addresses both storage infrastructure as well as policy-based data storage guidelines, can significantly reduce the ongoing costs of an organization’s investment in storage and its associated support. The implementation of a new storage architecture however often requires the immediate investment in additional capacity in the form of disk and tape library infrastructure as well as training in the skills necessary to manage a consolidated storage environment.

If implemented successfully however, organizations can realize savings from reduced administration, increased capacity utilization, and the ability to shift less used information to slower, lower cost storage when a tiered architecture is used. Additionally, many organizations that migrate to a consolidated storage infrastructure approach realize additional savings from lower costs associated with data, content, and records management and administration.

Effective storage consolidation requires significant planning, including:

  • Inventorying the existing storage footprint to determine the current architectures, technologies, and makes and models in production.

  • Capturing current capacity and utilization levels.

  • Forecasting three, five, and seven year storage requirements.

  • Establishing performance and availability tiers and assigning tiers to application and data types.

  • Investing in consolidated, standard storage platforms.

  • Consolidating locations with adequate bandwidth and assessing ability to upgrade bandwidth, where required, for additional consolidation.