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IT Consolidation Projects Vary Widely

February 5, 2018

This is the second post on IT consolidation, a topic that is broad and important to the vitality of organizations and their IT departments. In this post, I explore the diversity of IT consolidation projects as they relate to various undertakings from server to data center consolidation. 
Huge Variety of Scope  
No IT consolidation project is easy, but some are definitely more complex than others. All consolidation projects involve people, processes and technology, and they are largely driven (or guided) by business requirements. Consolidation assignments are done in the context of a project (have a beginning and an end), but they may not always have a dedicated project manager as this depends on the size of the project. The scope can vary considerably. For example the focus could any one of the following:
  • Consolidate individual infrastructure servers (e.g., file and print, storage and backup or messaging service)
  • Consolidate individual application servers (e.g., development and test systems, discrete applications or database servers)
  • Consolidate individual applications and their components or entire business systems, including their processes
  • Consolidate one or more entire data centers
The first two bullet points are server-related, so they’re somewhat narrow in scope, but generally not easy projects. What is the project motivation? Perhaps the business objective is to do more with fewer servers by virtualizing the servers and having them host many images. An additional goal might be to reduce software costs by running an open source OS with open source tools. This change may sound straightforward, but changing the OS and learning and supporting new tools in a newly virtualized environment takes real work. You can think of an effort like this as a hybrid consolidation/modernization effort. 
The second two bullet points are necessarily more complex, as their scope is beyond just servers. Consolidating an individual application requires good documentation (and detective skills) and typically involves servers, networking, use of shared services (e.g., firewalls, load balancers, logical queues, etc.) and other components. In the absence of good documentation (or in addition to this), tools are often employed to verify needed information to support the consolidation. Using tools to gather information about the application is one of the first steps in the project to determine the work involved. 
Consolidating an entire data center is another level of complexity. That’s why there are a number of companies who specialize in this work. IBM has data center consolidation and relocation services that focus on migrating data and IT equipment, while managing the risk of outages. It’s challenging work with many clients expecting to get “an insurance policy” by using an experienced partner to plan and help execute this work. I wouldn’t want to consolidate my first data center without the services of an experienced partner. 
IT Is a Moving Target 
The technical implementation of consolidation projects has changed considerably in the last decade. Ten years ago, companies were deploying virtualization as a consolidation tactic. They started with servers and extended that idea to any device (think networking) that can be virtualized to increase utilization and usefulness and lower implementation and ongoing costs. 
Today, cloud is a major factor as consolidation projects target the use of shared cloud services to lower costs like data center power and space. Projects also utilize private cloud services for greater flexibility or use hybrid tactics to get the best of private and public services through a mixed-use case. 
It’s not just virtualization and cloud that impacts consolidation, however, dealing with the change and complexity is worth it. From server to data center consolidation, the benefits can be outstanding—like a 15 to 1 reduction in the number of mail servers or the reduction of 155 to just 12 major datacenters worldwide
What’s Next?
Next week, I’ll finish up the exploration of the IT consolidation topic. I will discuss methods and tools that are important to the success of consolidation projects as they impact risk and the predictability of outcomes.   

Posted February 5, 2018| Permalink