Data Center Modernization and Consolidation Key Initiative Overview

Archived Published: 08 April 2014 ID: G00262982

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Data center modernization requires organizations to rethink operational and organizational priorities, resulting from changing economic trends and new technologies. This overview helps you build a cost-effective and agile operation that aligns with business goals.


Figure 1. Data Center Modernization and Consolidation Key Initiative Overview
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner (April 2014)

This initiative involves customizing data center strategies according to business plans, regulatory requirements and skills availability.

Enterprises must become more agile while controlling costs to stay competitive. Data center modernization and consolidation projects offer the opportunity to do both. Gartner research provides invaluable advice regarding how to plan and implement a modernization and consolidation project, whether it involves building and populating a new data center or rearchitecting an existing one. Data center modernization helps organizations support an agile operation and a mobile workforce. We address issues, such as spatial constraints and new technology-based architectures and solutions; including those for storage, server, networking, data center convergence and virtualization. This initiative works with the Virtualization and Cloud Computing key initiatives, which address software-defined anything (SDx) and Web-scale IT. Clients that follow our advice typically save more than 10% of their annual operational costs. We also help clients with procurement, contract review and discount evaluation, activities that also result in cost savings.

Consider These Factors to Determine Your Readiness

What Data Center Modernization and Consolidation Means to CIOs

CIOs must assess organizational needs, economic trends and technology drivers when deciding how to modernize or consolidate a data center infrastructure. Consider the following key actions:

  • Assess your infrastructure. Get a broad view of organizational issues and areas that would benefit from data center consolidation and modernization.

  • Determine how to achieve savings in server, storage and network infrastructure.

  • Encourage all stakeholders to address internal political issues that can derail plans.

  • Be cognizant and prepared to address influential technologies and trends.

  • Map out the number and location of data centers. Determine whether they should be stand-alone, colocated or outsourced.

What Data Center Modernization and Consolidation Means to IT Leaders

IT leaders must walk the fine line of continuing to increase compute, network and storage capacity in support of the business wheel and overprovisioning data center space. They must devise a detailed plan and cost-benefit analysis when embarking on a data center consolidation and/or modernization project. They should inventory potential benefits and pitfalls. As part of that plan, IT leaders must consider these typical actions:

  • Conduct an in-depth assessment of your infrastructure and confer with the CIO before starting any modernization project.

  • Encourage a top-down focus on relationships among IT infrastructure, operations, and application development and business units. Address internal political issues that can derail plans.

  • Be prepared to show leadership. Determine where the organization can achieve savings in the server, storage and network infrastructure.

  • Determine the applicability of leading-edge technologies and approaches, such as Web-scale IT, to their organization.

  • Develop and build a Web-scale IT plan for the organization. Team with HR to implement it.

  • Determine the number and location of data centers, and whether they should be stand-alone, colocated or outsourced. Learn how to consolidate infrastructure and operations within a data center or set of data centers.

  • Examine how a data center consolidation and modernization project will affect IT platforms and systems. Consider how to handle legacy infrastructures.

  • Evaluate technologies and vendors using models and tools, such as Magic Quadrants, Critical Capabilities, Hype Cycles and Market Guides.

What Data Center Modernization and Consolidation Means to Technical Professionals

Technical professionals know that the data center has been undergoing a transformation process for more than a decade. Digital business and the Nexus of Forces (including cloud, mobile, big data and social media) continue to impact business with unprecedented speed, requiring enterprises to become more agile.

Older and more rigid data center infrastructures are becoming crippled in their capacity to provide value, putting the business at a competitive disadvantage. To keep pace with the velocity of business, data centers will need to support an ultra-agile infrastructure by leveraging the following key technologies:

  • Virtualization

  • Automation

  • Cloud-based technologies

  • Software-defined anything

Gartner advises the following actions for technical professionals:

  • Redefine the value of IT operations: Focus less on technical details and more on turnkey solutions that deliver speed and agility. Let vendors worry about details and trade in the time needed for high degrees of customization for the additional time to work more closely with business units to help them move faster and safer. Embrace the role of an IT services broker.

  • Be an innovation champion: Build architectures and processes that make it easier to consume innovations, whether they are hosted by central IT or by a cloud services provider. Consider software-defined enablement to improve agility and operational efficiency.

  • Converge to compete: IT organizations must design IT services with convergence in mind, connecting and linking technology and services together to solve greater business problems.

  • Assimilate technology faster: IT must become a factory where new technologies are quickly understood, used to create business value services and rapidly deployed.

  • Standardize as much as possible: Reduced complexity improves speed, agility and availability. Worry less about lock-in and more about ways to accelerate orchestration and automation of IT tasks. Administration costs (not hardware or software costs) are often the biggest contributor to escalating IT operations costs.

  • Be a broker: IT organizations cannot afford to own and operate the entirety of IT. Instead, they must become a technology purveyor and risk management advisor, rather than sole provider.

  • Consolidate data centers: Maintain business continuity by teaming with business and IT leadership.

  • Evaluate technologies and vendors: Leverage Gartner's Technology Planner for Technical Professionals service for independent comparisons of server and storage configurations. Compare and track infrastructure configurations, cost modeling and performance to optimize data center efficiency and agility.

  • Leverage the cloud: Decide on optimal storage and application placement — in the external cloud, in an internal cloud with a hosting provider, or in a colocation facility using Gartner's cloud research.

  • Leverage research and tools: Combine research with actionable tools, such as planning guides, and Decision Point and evaluation criteria documents.

Conduct Your Data Center Consolidation/Modernization Project Using This Structured Approach

Gartner recommends following these major organizing principles in the execution of a data center consolidation and modernization project (these principles may vary, depending on the organization's maturity):

  • Strategize and Plan: Determine achievable cost savings and energy efficiencies. Consider aspects such as the effects of the project on other parts of the IT infrastructure. Present a business case based on these metrics and return on investment.

  • Architect Solution: Include the necessary number of data centers, their locations and configurations. Decide whether they should be colocated or outsourced. Incorporate changes in business continuity plans. Develop a cloud computing strategy for your organization.

  • Select Solution: Use Gartner research to help you select and implement technologies, products and services to gain energy efficiency, increase agility and enhance availability. Differentiate between "real" green IT projects and industry hype.

  • Build: Meet immediate needs, rather than building for long-term growth. Focus on design efficiency and an incremental build-out methodology. Factor in density zones and multitiered designs. Integrate legacy hardware with innovations. Strive for optimal costs.

  • Operate and Evolve: Monitor energy and operational efficiency. Make changes according to industry requirements and enterprise needs. Establish processes for ongoing server consolidation and disciplines for implementation of virtual servers to prevent virtual server sprawl.

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