Tips for Data Center Rightsizing After a Cloud Migration

Here’s a detailed look into strategies for migrating from on-prem to the cloud by rightsizing equipment and engineering staff.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology Analyst

December 28, 2022

4 Min Read
Engineer fixes network switch in data center room
Panumas Nikhomkhai / Alamy

It's easy enough to decommission or scale back on-premises software deployments after moving workloads to the cloud. But what about data center equipment? How do you rightsize your on-premises hardware after you migrate some of your applications to cloud-based virtual servers?

That's a question that more and more IT leaders need to answer these days as businesses continue their migration to the cloud. And it's an especially complex question for organizations that continue to operate some workloads inside private data centers even after they shift others into the cloud.

To provide answers, this article walks through data center right sizing strategies that IT executives and facilities managers can leverage to get the most out of unused equipment and buildings after shrinking their data center infrastructure footprint.

Why data center right sizing matters

Before diving into data center right sizing strategies, let's discuss why it's important to right size your data center in the first place.

One reason is cost efficiency. Data centers that house servers that are no longer in use, or that are physically larger than they need to be, waste money in many ways. They cost more to power and cool. They take up real estate that could be invested in other, more productive initiatives. They increase the costs associated with hardware maintenance and security. And so on.

In addition, there's a sustainability imperative for right sizing your data center. Excess data center infrastructure wastes energy. Plus, idle servers could be repurposed for new workloads in order to avoid the resource expenditures required to build new servers.

Data center right sizing strategies

That's the why of data center right sizing. Now, let's talk about the how by discussing strategies for optimizing different components of a data center once your on-premises workload requirements have shrunk.

Data center building reuse

If you own your own data center building, deciding what to do with it after you no longer need all of the space can be a quandary.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer, but potential strategies include:

  • Repurposing the facility for another business use within your company, such as office space. This is an easy way to derive continued value from the space while still making it easy to convert it back to a data center late, should the need arise.

  • Renting the space to other businesses that need a place to operate servers. This strategy turns you into a colocation provider, but if you already have a functioning data center and support team in place, it's not necessarily a stretch to operate a colocation facility on a small scale.

  • Repurpose the space for something entirely new and unrelated to your business – like agriculture, which gave new life to a former Digital Realty data center.

Repurposing data center equipment

If you move some of your workloads to the cloud, there's a good chance you no longer need all of your on-premises servers, switches and other data center equipment. Options for repurposing your unused hardware include:

  • Selling it to other businesses. This can be a particularly attractive option if your data center equipment is standards-compliant and can be easily reused by other companies.

  • Using it to build a hybrid cloud environment that adds flexibility to your cloud architecture. Creating a hybrid cloud may increase your overall costs, but it will give you options – like the ability to host different parts of the same workloads in the cloud and on-premises – that you would lack if your on-premises and cloud-based environments remain siloed from each other.

  • Hosting backup or failover environments that you can use to keep workloads running in the event that your cloud fails. Here again, you'll pay a cost to keep your servers available for backup purposes, but it's likely to be lower than it would be to operate them for production hosting purposes – especially if you take advantage of cost-efficient backup strategies, like "pilot light" mode.

Repurposing your data center infrastructure team

The final component of data center rightsizing to think about following a cloud migration is your support team. If you have fewer on-premises servers to manage, you likely don't need as large a team.

That doesn't mean that technician layoffs are necessarily on the table, however. A smarter strategy in many cases is to repurpose your data center staff to help maintain your cloud workloads. After all, it's likely that they are already familiar with both your applications and your business needs. And for most technicians with experience managing data centers, learning cloud administration is not a great leap.

About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology Analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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