When it comes to data center consolidation, making the decision to consolidate is the easy part. What's much harder is figuring out how you'll actually go about performing the consolidation.
That's why it's important to develop a step-by-step plan for consolidating your data center before you begin the process. Keep reading for a look at the key steps to include in your plan, along with tips on optimizing the impact of your data center consolidation at each step of the process.
The Goals of Data Center Consolidation
Before diving into the steps that factor into data center consolidation, let's discuss why businesses typically consolidate in the first place.
The main reason is to achieve greater efficiency within their data centers. By combining multiple hardware and software resources, organizations can lower the energy costs required to power their workloads, simplify management, and, in many cases, reduce their cybersecurity attack surface.
Of course, not all businesses decide to consolidate with the same goals in mind. But generally speaking, their main objectives boil down to saving money, increasing operational efficiency, and reducing risk.
The Steps of the Data Center Consolidation Process
Here are the five main steps you'll want to plan for to achieve a successful data center consolidation.
1. Inventory data center IT assets
The first step — taking stock of the IT assets you currently have — is probably the most obvious, but it's also the most important. You can't effectively consolidate if you don't know what you're consolidating.
As you make an inventory of your assets, remember to include not just physical infrastructure, but also software-defined infrastructure. Knowing how many virtual machines (VMs) you have, for example, is just as important as counting your physical servers, since you may want to consolidate some VMs to reduce your operating overhead.
Remember, too, to look for "rogue" IT assets, meaning those that users have deployed without the central IT department's knowledge. Cleaning up rogue IT during data center consolidation is critical for maximizing efficiency.
2. Identify consolidation opportunities
Once you know which assets you have, determine how to consolidate them. This is the most complicated step in the data center consolidation process, and it will likely take the greatest amount of time and require deep expertise. But you need to find consolidation opportunities if you want your consolidation efforts to yield results.
Consolidation opportunities are places within your IT estate where you can merge resources to increase efficiency or manageability. For example, as noted above, you might be able to merge some virtual machines into a single VM (provided the VMs are hosting workloads that can securely coexist on the same host) to reduce the total number of VMs you have to manage. You can also look for ways to reduce the number of subnets in your network architecture, the number of physical servers you operate, the data storage arrays you rely, on and so forth.
3. Consider moving some workloads out of the data center
In addition to consolidating assets within your own data center, you may in some cases decide that it makes most sense to move certain assets into the cloud. You might have VMs that cost more to run on-prem than they'd cost in the cloud, for example.
Cloud migration isn't a part of the data center consolidation process per se; it's more of an alternative to it. But it's important to remember that the cloud and private data centers are not an either-or proposition. You can, and in many cases should, use both types of strategies at the same time, and data center consolidation is a great opportunity to start taking advantage of the cloud for some workloads.
4. Assess power needs
After you've decided what you'll consolidate and which workloads you'll move to the cloud, if applicable, you can determine how much energy your consolidated workloads will require. From there, decide how to source energy for your consolidated data center in a way that meets any sustainability goals your organization has set while also keeping your workloads reliably powered.
5. Monitor consolidation effectiveness
The last key step in data center consolidation is establishing a plan for tracking your consolidated workloads to determine how effective consolidation was in meeting your goals. You're likely to find that you're not hitting all of your cost, manageability, or security objectives for every workload, but you won't know where you're falling short if you don't have a plan in place for measuring metrics related to these objectives.
By monitoring your workloads post-consolidation, you'll be able to identify instances where you can make further changes to come closer to the goals you set.
Data center consolidation is a complex process, and there's no one-size-fits-all plan to follow. In general, however, every organization should start its consolidation process by determining which assets it operates inside data centers and how to make them more efficient. It should also make sure it has the energy resources in place to operate consolidated workloads, and that it can monitor and measure the impact of its workloads post-consolidation to identify shortcomings.