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Data-Center Consolidation on Your Power Systems

Note: This is the first in a continuing series on Power Systems data-center consolidation.


Data-center consolidation. It’s the kind project that can cause even the most cool and competent IT Directors to break into a cold sweat. Why are data center-consolidation projects so prevalent and how do we begin to get our arms around such a project? What are some of the common approaches? How do Power Systems lend themselves to a data-center consolidation? What are some of the best practices for implementation? Finally, what project-management tools can we use to plan and execute our project? These are just some of the topics I’ll outline in our three-part series on data-center consolidation around IBM Power Systems running AIX.

Why Consolidate the Data Center?

Before you even start to talk about the technical elements of a consolidation, you’ll need to justify the project. This is typically done in the initiation or governance stage of a project. In today's economic climate, every approved project must have a significant ROI, which should also lower the total cost of ownership (TCO). More than ever before, IT organizations are under tremendous pressure to improve availability and service levels while reducing costs. Data center consolidations are so prevalent because without a doubt they offer significant ROI and TCO benefits along with improved business and IT efficiencies. Because the data center is the hub for all systems in the company, it should be the starting point for reducing complexity and increasing efficiencies. In fact, it’s one of the most fundamental ways to lower IT-infrastructure costs because larger data centers are more cost effective than smaller ones. Concentrating resources into smaller physical components will boost the productivity of overall assets, simplify systems management and decrease the number of support staff required for maintenance.

Some of the ways data-center consolidations reduce costs include:

  • Software assets and licensing—I've seen instances where reduced costs for software licensing alone can justify data-center consolidations.
  • Power and cooling—The fewer data centers and servers you maintain, the lower your data center operating costs. This will also help with other initiatives, such as going green.
  • Real estate—It costs money to lease and house data centers. Scaling back from six to three data centers will cut these costs by 50 percent.
  • Hardware maintenance—Fewer hardware components translate into fewer service contracts.
  • Workload utilization—Server consolidation usually goes in tandem with a data-center consolidation. It gives you the opportunity to efficiently spread your processing workload. IBM's midrange-virtualization technology, PowerVM, takes advantage of features such as shared processor pools, virtual I/O servers and workload partitioning to enable efficient data processing. These offerings ultimately reduce complexity and cost.
  • IT staffing—Usually a data-center consolidation translates into fewer support staff needed to maintain servers.
  • Business continuity—Data-center consolidation provides a unique opportunity to address inadequacies in current disaster-recovery plans.
  • Infrastructure complexity—Data-center consolidation provides opportunities to combine storage, networks and even OSs, ultimately reducing complexity and costs.

One of the least understood elements of data-center consolidation is the effect it’ll have on all your IT systems. Let's examine IBM's recent data-center consolidation and overall consolidation initiatives.


Type 1997 2008
Data centers 270 12
Networks 31 1
Intel servers 11,000 1,500
Unix servers 8,000 1,500
Applications 15,000 5,000


IBM recently consolidated 3,900 servers into 30 virtualized mainframes with Linux partitions. Total energy and operational savings were approximately $1.5 billion.

What are Some Common Approaches?

Let's discuss strategy. As an organization, one of the first things you'll need to do is take stock of what you have. You won’t be able to execute your data center-consolidation project unless you have an inventory of every component that exists. This way you'll be able to determine if that component needs to be moved, replaced or eliminated. You’ll also need this information to complete your financial analysis and determine your ROI.

Let's focus on the five aspects of a project that we'll need. There are many different best-practice methodologies regarding project management. The most widely accepted model today is project management body of knowledge (PMBOK), which was developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMBOK isn’t a project-management blueprint; it’s a set of processes and knowledge areas. It defines 44 processes, nine knowledge areas and five project phases. For the purposes of this series, we're going to focus on the project phases, which are initiation, planning, execution, monitoring/control and closing. In this article, I’ve mostly described project initiation, which includes the preparation of important preliminary documents, such as a project charter and a preliminary scope statement. It’s in this phase the project is justified and approved. You can’t write plans for a project that hasn’t been budgeted. Actually you can, but that would be a waste of time and resources.

Let's talk specifics. Earlier, I mentioned taking stock of your current infrastructure. This effort should be part of determining your target ROI. Let's say your goal is to consolidate four datacenters to two, while at the same time consolidating Sun and Linux servers to IBM Power Systems. In order to create a financial analysis, you’ll need to count the servers, software licenses and storage and network devices. Then you’ll estimate what that count would be after consolidating resources and building your infrastructure around virtualization technologies. IBM and its Business Partners can help in every step of this process, including the initiation and planning stages.

IBM actually has a six-step methodology that includes customer certification, server-inventory analysis, server-consolidation proposal, proof of concept, pilot and deployment. They’ll also show how Power Systems can decrease costs and increase efficiencies, including workload optimization, scalability and resiliency. In fact, studies have shown that through server consolidation with IBM Power Systems there is an average of 72 percent savings in overall data-center costs.

In the next part of the series, I’ll describe the planning, execution and deployment strategies. I’ll also outline at specific elements of AIX, PowerVM and the new POWER6 servers and other offerings such as Active Energy Manager. We'll also discuss technical approaches toward achieving greater consolidation opportunities using Power Systems. It's important to note data-center consolidation isn’t just the merger of data centers or even servers, but it also provides the opportunity to consolidate in other areas, including OSs. It’s precisely these opportunities that will increase your efficiencies, while at the same time increasing your ROI and decreasing that other important number, TCO.


Ken Milberg, CATE, PMP, is a diverse IT Professional with 20+ years of experience. He is a Power Systems Champion. Ken is a technology writer and site expert for techtarget and has also been a frequent contributor of content for IBM developerWorks. Ken has also been a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine and is a former technical editor. He can be reached at



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