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Methods and Tools for IT Consolidation Projects

February 12, 2018

In this, the third of a three-part exploration of the IT consolidation topic, I discuss methods and tools that are important to the success of consolidation projects as they impact risk and the predictability of outcomes. 

If you plan to do an IT consolidation project, you better have a method or approach or technique—whatever you choose to call it. The method is always implemented in the context of a project that has a beginning and an end, and perhaps later, there will be an ongoing program to monitor and manage the consolidated systems and workloads. What method should you use? It depends on if you are doing it yourself or using an experienced service provider. 
Doing it Yourself  
When doing it yourself, assuming you are experienced but new to consolidation, the best approach is to do some research in order to develop a solid approach. There are many sources of materials to help you get started, but they are specific to the kind of project. Consider server consolidation, server virtualization strategies and use cases as one of many high-level places to start. This article has some good ideas on how to get started and which pitfalls to avoid. This brief article covers the topic in three main sections:
  1. Server consolidation project planning
    Ideas that form this section include:
A. How to determine what to virtualize 
B. Guest OS virtualization furthers cause of server consolidation
C. Beware of hidden costs in server consolidation or virtualization
D. Modeling your consolidation server 
E. Server consolidation is not all virtualization

      2. How to perform server consolidation with virtualization
          The main ideas in this section include:
A. Why virtual systems management tools are central to green IT strategy
B. Tools for consolidation
C. Server repurposing 
D. Server consolidation tips
       3. After your server consolidation and virtualization project: What next?
           Two main topics dominate:
A. How to measure the success of your server consolidation project 
B. Eight critical tasks to complete after server virtualization
Reading a single article on consolidation is clearly not enough, but it is a place to start. Getting ideas from 10 or more articles can be done quickly and is worth the effort. What you learn will directly impact your project plan and likely reduce the mistakes that you will make. 
Besides research, having experienced people on the team matters a lot. For example, when the team includes an experience project manager, they will know to include a pilot step or phases in the project to reduce risk. Did you ever learn phase, pilot, or parallel never plunge? Your experienced project manager will know this.
Using an Experienced Service Provider
When you engage a service provider, they will bring along a project plan, method and tools. IBM has outlined seven keys to unlocking the full potential of a server consolidation. These include:
  1. Implement a long-term IT management strategy
  2. Shift from siloed to cross-platform support
  3. Establish a demand management system
  4. Develop an understanding of the existing IT infrastructure in relation to business objectives
  5. Generate staff commitment to the consolidation strategy
  6. Establish end-to-end performance monitoring
  7. Use existing consolidation methods and patterns that work
These seven keys aren’t a plan but rather guiding principles. This is what you can expect from leading providers; they have the project covered from how to think about it and get started to  post consolidation activities, including controlling ideas. 
Tools are essential to the successful completion of any consolidation project. Useful tools, especially those that do a variety of different functions like size new systems, help migrate from existing systems and provide specific server consolidation supports, are specialized and require some knowledge to master.  
For server consolidation, consider the IBM Systems Workload Estimator (WLE), which is a web-based sizing tool for IBM Systems. The scope of support includes IBM Z, Power Systems, IBM Flex Systems and IBM PureFlex Systems. 
You can use this tool to size a new system, to size an upgrade to an existing system, or to size a consolidation of several systems. WLE will characterize the projected workload either using your measurement data or by using one of the many workload plug-ins. These plug-ins provide the necessary sizing guidance. 
Virtualization should be reflected in the sizing to yield a more robust solution, by using various types of partitioning and virtual I/O. WLE will provide current and growth recommendations for processor, memory and disk—whether internal or SAN—that satisfy your overall performance requirements. WLE can support estimates dealing with multiple systems, multiple partitions, multiple OSes and multiple sizing intervals. It is difficult to imagine a more robust tool for consolidations to IBM systems. 
What’s Next?
Next week, I’ll start a new series focused on return on investment (ROI), which is a business strategy used at the beginning of significant IT projects. When someone asks about ROI, they are really asking: What do I get back in return for the money I plan to spend and what is it really worth?

Posted February 12, 2018| Permalink