Maximize ROI: 6 Key Questions for Effective Data Center Optimization

Ask these six essential questions to streamline your data center optimization efforts and enhance operational efficiency.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology Analyst

July 3, 2024

4 Min Read
Data center optimization illustration
Image: Alamy

It’s one thing to declare that you’re going to optimize your data center. Actually performing data center optimization can be quite another. After all, optimization can extend to many different areas – from power management and energy sourcing to backup and recovery planning and beyond.

With so much ground to cover, businesses of all sizes risk getting caught in the weeds and failing to achieve meaningful steps toward data center optimization.

To help prevent that outcome, consider asking yourself strategic questions during your data center optimization initiative. By asking the right questions before you decide where and how to optimize different components of your data center, you stand a higher chance of making changes that meaningfully move the needle.

To that end, here’s a look at six questions to ask during data center optimization to enhance operational efficiency and achieve maximum return on investment.

1. Why Are You Optimizing Your Data Center?

First and foremost, ask yourself why, exactly, you’re optimizing your data center and what you hope to get out of the initiative. Is it to save money? To be more sustainable? Increase your capacity to scale? Support new types of workloads or infrastructure?

Unless you know specifically what you’re trying to get out of data center optimization, it’s hard to chart a strategy that will yield positive results.

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2. Who Are You Helping Through Data Center Optimization?

You must determine whom you’re trying to help via your data center optimization plans. Is your main goal to save time and reduce toil for your technicians? Is it to introduce novel capabilities that will attract new customers? Is it to reduce operating expenses and boost returns for shareholders?

Determining which stakeholders you are trying to serve is critical for making changes aligned with their needs.

3. What Are Your Greatest Operational Constraints?

Identifying the biggest roadblocks or liabilities in your current data center operational strategy is important for two reasons: First, it can help to hone the data center optimization goals you’re setting for yourself.

Second, understanding your constraints is important for determining the limitations of what you can achieve through data center optimization. You may lack the personnel or budget to hit some of your goals, for example, and it’s best to discover that fact before you begin pursuing an initiative that’s destined to fail.

4. How Will Your Data Center Needs Change?

Data center optimization is only truly valuable if it delivers benefits that last beyond the present point in time. Otherwise, you’re likely to find yourself wanting to optimize again in a year or two because what was optimal at one moment ceases to be optimal as your needs change.

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For that reason, it’s critical to think about the future, not just the present, during data center optimization. Consider, for instance, whether you will need to deploy new types of workloads (such as infrastructure to support AI), how your operating budget might change and what your power consumption will look like three, five, or even 10 years from now.

5. Are You Chasing Data Center Optimization Fads?

As you optimize the way you manage your data center, you’ll probably find yourself influenced by popular ideas and technologies. Some of these may deliver real value, while others will turn out to be fads – such as ‘AIOps’ and ‘NoOps’, two once-trendy concepts that arguably never really amounted to anything.

You want to be able to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s hype so that you don’t waste resources investing in solutions without staying power.

Identifying fads is not always easy, of course, but consider factors like how well-defined and specific a concept is, how long it has been around, and whether there are real-world examples of implementation of the concepts.

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6. How Will You Measure the Impact of Your Optimization?

To make the most of data center optimization, you should have a plan in place to quantify its impact.

Exactly what you measure should reflect your optimization goals. For instance, if your main goal is to reduce power consumption, you’ll want to look at power metrics. If it’s to reduce costs, you’ll need to calculate how much you are saving relative to your optimization expenses. And so on.

Whatever your approach, it’s important to measure optimization’s value in a quantifiable way. Otherwise, assessments of whether optimization was successful will end up being ad hoc or subjective, making it hard to determine what really worked.

Optimizing for the Future

Without a doubt, there is much more to data center optimization than just thinking about what you’re trying to achieve, how you’re planning to achieve it, and how you’ll measure whether you’re successful.

But it’s important to ask these key initial questions before you dive into the technical details of an optimization initiative. The answers will help you establish a grounded plane for optimizing your data center in a way that delivers real value.

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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