CIO s Guide to Advanced Consolidation

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1 WHITE PAPER CIO s Guide to Advanced Consolidation How to Maximize the Data Center of the Future and Consolidate Completely Without Compromise

2 INTRODUCTION Consolidation: An Evolving Trend Consolidating and rationalizing IT infrastructure has been and will continue to be a dominant IT trend, particularly in an uncertain economy when organizations are looking to reduce the costs associated with operating their infrastructures. While many organizations have achieved some level of consolidation in the data center, analyst firm Forrester Consulting recently found that only 13 percent considered themselves fully consolidated to the data center, and only 8 percent fully consolidated within branch offices. 1 Broader consolidation requires overcoming greater complexity, distance and latency, and traditional IT organizational silos. The benefits of a well-planned and executed consolidation approach, however, can extend beyond cost savings to include improved risk mitigation and efficiently. From Consolidation Basics to Strategic, Enterprise-wide Consolidation Many organizations are moving beyond the immediate server consolidation benefits of virtualization to find ways to maximize investments in efficient data center infrastructure and expand the benefits of consolidation enterprise-wide. However, consolidating wider and deeper introduces a number of new challenges for IT organizations. Advanced Consolidation Objectives Eliminate second and third-tier data centers and consolidate resources into fewer data center facilities Virtualize all components of application delivery and drive greater efficiency from application infrastructure Centralize infrastructure from branch offices into efficient data centers Reduce the remaining IT footprint in branch offices for streamlined operations Advanced Consolidation Challenges Moving production application servers from regional data centers and branch offices requires end users to access those applications over a wide area network (WAN), which often results in poor performance due to latency and network congestion Inaccurate data about application dependencies can lead to failed cut-overs when application resources are moved, such as in consolidation between data centers and from branch offices Application service disruption can occur when client applications continue to try to connect to servers in legacy locations, but consolidation projects have moved those resources to another data center This paper explores four consolidation strategies that build upon a foundation of basic server virtualization, deepen the use of virtualization, and extend the scope of consolidation across the enterprise. Each of these strategies benefits from careful analysis and planning before execution. They involve the data center, which has been the focus of much recent investment and serves as the bastion of cost-efficiency and control for IT, and branch offices, which often pose challenges to IT security and operate less efficiently. Consolidating the number of data centers and virtualizing all components of application delivery are advanced consolidation strategies that apply to data center operations, while centralizing infrastructure and consolidating essential branch IT are advanced consolidation strategies that involve branch operations. 1 Successfully Consolidating Branch-Office Infrastructure In The Face Of More Users, Services, And Devices, Forrester Consulting, October Riverbed Technology. All rights reserved. 1

3 Consolidation Across Two Enterprise Spheres: the Data Center and the Branch Office Data centers offer a natural center of gravity for IT to administer application infrastructure with the greatest control and efficiency by streamlining management and security operations. With the mainstream adoption of server virtualization and storage technologies such as thin provisioning and deduplication, data centers have seen a revival in innovation and investment. Meanwhile, branch locations, such as retail stores, regional offices, or local production sites, are the front lines for sales, production, and customer interaction. Employee productivity in the branch affects the level of product development, service delivery, and even sales revenue for the greater enterprise. But ensuring the highest level of productivity must be balanced with the costs involved, both hard costs for infrastructure and real estate, and the soft costs to administer and manage supporting infrastructure and facilities. Figure 1: Business goals and IT spheres To ensure productivity at branch locations, IT organizations need to support necessary branch infrastructure, deliver performant applications, and secure availability of local and centralized applications. In many ways, these are the same requirements at headquarters, but must be achieved with lower cost and complexity to scale out to multiple sites. Preparing for Advanced Consolidation Stages: Analysis and Planning Advanced consolidation projects such as data center consolidation and infrastructure centralization have something in common: the need to discover what s running on the network and who is using it. Organizations must also understand IT assets and their dependencies before, during, and after consolidation to reduce risks and prevent unforeseen outages during consolidation. What applications are running on my infrastructure? Where are my applications running? Who is using which applications? Baseline user experience Prior to executing any consolidation strategies, IT should baseline application performance to understand the parameters of the typical user-experience before changes occur. This baseline can provide a benchmark to measure application performance after data centers or infrastructure has been consolidated. More importantly, a baseline measurement can be used to assess issues that may arise, such as latency performance challenges. Application-aware network performance monitoring technologies can report the status of application performance enterprise-wide, as well as monitor and troubleshoot ongoing network and application issues as consolidation efforts are underway or completed. Map applications Accurate information about networked IT assets and their operational relationships is essential to reduce risk of data center migrations and infrastructure centralization by highlighting application dependencies Riverbed Technology. All rights reserved. 2

4 However, the discovery phase of IT projects has historically been time-consuming, expensive, and errorprone, with several months spent scanning the network, finding dependencies, and updating asset lists. Manual processes are labor-intensive, often incomplete, and very difficult to maintain; agent-based systems are costly and limited to agent locations; and, scan-based systems are resource-intensive and capture limited point-in-time data. Advanced application-aware network performance monitoring products can automatically map IT environments network-wide without requiring complex installations by passively collecting network flow data. This speeds up data center consolidation efforts and arms organizations with a current and accurate view of infrastructure inventory. Using a single tool for application mapping and asset discovery and performance monitoring eliminates wasteful spending on low-value point products in favor of high-value, multifunctional tools that solve immediate and ongoing project needs. Automating the dependency mapping process for data center migrations eliminates the issues that plague manual, agent-based, and scan-based discovery processes, enabling more effective planning and decision making. Using an application-aware network performance management tool, organizations can map application dependencies quickly and confirm which users are accessing which application instances, as well as measure the latency between users and the existing and projected application hosts. The next four sections dive into the four advanced consolidation strategies. Strategy One: Consolidate Data Centers Traditionally, enterprise computing resources are deployed at geographically distributed headquarters, data centers, and branch offices to ensure end-user performance and meet SLAs. The downsides are the inefficient use of energy and computing resources, as well as the expense and difficulty of managing a large number of data centers. Data center consolidation projects allow organizations to reduce the number of data centers to cut costs, improve security, concentrate investments into fewer data centers, and ultimately evolve computing infrastructure to a private cloud model. The challenge is to eliminate data centers without impeding How many data centers do I need? Which applications need to be moved? How will users redirect to another data center? performance and the productivity of employees. Analysis and planning with application performance baselines and dependency maps can reduce the risk of data center consolidation projects. But other challenges exist, including migrating data and applications so that there is no interruption to the business, as well as ensuring access to those resources. Architect for a seamless transition With selected data centers outfitted to assume greater load and remaining data centers scheduled for closures, IT must replicate applications to the surviving data centers and then transition users to the new host. Intelligent traffic management solutions seamlessly redirect users between facilities, as well as increase the ongoing reliability and performance of those applications. Global and local load balancing capabilities in application delivery controllers (ADCs) allow organizations to shift application resources between locations, manage and upgrade underlying infrastructure, and distribute application load between multiple servers and data centers, all without disrupting end-user access to applications. Users see an improvement in application reliability and performance, while IT has greater flexibility to make architectural changes, including data center consolidation and elimination Riverbed Technology. All rights reserved. 3

5 Address the impact of relocation Consolidating data centers moves applications from many to fewer locations, but because end users are not consolidated, the distance between users and their applications is often extended. Given that the remaining data centers will have to support more users, from more locations, many might assume that additional bandwidth is required to support the increased traffic over the WAN. However, additional bandwidth may not solve the problem and in many cases is not necessary. The larger impact arises when latency combines with application protocol inefficiencies to create an additional bottleneck to WAN application performance. By implementing a WAN optimization solution between the remaining data centers and field offices before migrating applications, organizations can accelerate the migration of data and applications to the new location, as well as ensure that end users continue to experience consistent levels of performance. Strategy Two: Virtualized Application Delivery Organizations investing in consolidated data centers are thinking beyond basic server virtualization. The notion of the data center of the future has emerged to capture the vision of a fully virtualized, highly automated and highly efficient concentration of computing resources, where IT exerts a high degree of control, but can quickly respond to changing business requirements. Fundamentally, this data center vision is built upon technologies that increase the efficiency of infrastructure, such as server virtualization and storage provisioning and deduplication. However, to fully realize this vision, organizations must think holistically about the applications hosted in these data centers and how their architecture can better align with the broader goals of greater efficiency and business agility. Drive application efficiency Server virtualization, storage provisioning and deduplication technologies have driven greater efficiency from infrastructure investments. However, they are largely agnostic to the application itself, so applications remain as resource inefficient as ever, and user capacity is unchanged. Increases in user requests can cause many mission-critical application servers to become unstable and fail. Application delivery controllers (ADCs) can improve the resource utilization of an application by offloading compute-intensive functions, like compression, SSL decryption, and content caching. In addition to buffering servers from otherwise overwhelming peaks in demand, the ability to offload and cache at the ADC increases the throughput and Since deploying Stingray Traffic Manager, we have see a 50 percent increase in website performance for Australian users and it has more than halved the load on our web servers Andy Mills, CIO, STA Travel What resources are required to support peak capacity for my applications? Can I move applications within my virtualized data center, or between data centers, as needed? efficiency of an application s web front-end. The implications of increased throughput are that either web servers have more headroom for peaks, or fewer web servers are required, which can allow further server consolidation. Leverage virtualization For many organizations, virtualization projects have reduced costs by increasing utilization, flexibility, and management automation of applications and servers. However, applications that remain tethered to traditional ADC appliances essentially remain restricted in mobility and scale, limiting the benefits IT can gain from virtualized infrastructure. Virtual ADCs, on the other hand, help the mobility and scaling of virtual applications, can be deployed quickly on physical or virtual platforms, and can be managed centrally. This 2012 Riverbed Technology. All rights reserved. 4

6 gives organizations more choice and more flexibility on how and where to deploy ADC resources, aligning more tightly with overall virtualization project objectives. Strategy Three: Centralize Infrastructure Every organization has a unique history which can explain its distributed application infrastructure: acquisitions that remained semi-autonomous, outlaw departments that purchased IT out of their own budget, and performance challenges that required local resources. Whatever the reason, application infrastructure has found its way into makeshift server closets and micro-data centers in branch offices at many organizations. With powerful innovations driving increased efficiency at the data center, the benefits of centralizing servers, storage, and even desktops from branch locations has become more compelling. In addition to reducing the complexity of branch IT infrastructure and improving security and data protection practices, centralizing application infrastructure allows IT to take advantage of even greater cost efficiencies at data centers, where virtualization and automation have maximum impact. Centralizing applications, however, is not without challenges. Fundamentally, relocating an application requires the same planning and analysis as eliminating an entire data center, as well as factoring new or increased dependency on the WAN. Part of managing that dependency is adjusting for the impact of distance between the central data center and distributed end users. Fortunately, numerous technologies are available to address these challenges. Accelerate applications to the edge Most enterprise applications were not designed to operate with the client and server connected over a WAN and, as a result, user experience suffers from bandwidth limitations and protocol inefficiencies that become exacerbated with distance and latency. Many organizations have turned to WAN optimization to simultaneously address bandwidth and latency constraints. WAN optimization products combine data The combination of Steelhead appliances and Granite allows us to eliminate physical hardware in the remote office and the associated maintenance costs, solidify a disaster recovery strategy for these offices, and have backup processes run by systems administrators Mitchel Weinberger, IT Manager, GeoEngineers How much infrastructure resides in branch offices? Can applications currently in branch offices be centralized? How will users access centralized applications and data? reduction, transport protocol optimization, and application protocol optimization to provide WAN application acceleration and bandwidth reduction to centralized applications that are accessed by users in branch offices or remote locations. Support applications at the edge Despite the success of consolidation initiatives enabled by WAN optimization, a significant amount of IT infrastructure remains in branch offices the majority of organizations estimate that over 50% of corporate data is stored in branch offices, according to a recent research study 2. Typically this is due to the requirements of custom- and write-intensive applications that require local compute and direct block-based storage access and therefore have a low tolerance for limited bandwidth, high latency, and connectivity issues. To serve the 2 Successfully Consolidating Branch-Office Infrastructure In The Face Of More Users, Services, And Devices, Forrester Consulting, October Riverbed Technology. All rights reserved. 5

7 needs of these branch-based applications, organizations often have no choice but to deploy local storage solutions such as direct attached storage (DAS), network attached storage (NAS), and in some cases a storage area network (SAN). A radical new innovation in block-level optimization allows data to reside centrally yet be available, as if it were local, to applications that need to execute at the edge. This new technology combined with server virtualization allows an architectural approach known as edge virtual server infrastructure (edge-vsi). With edge-vsi, branch office storage can be consolidated and centralized into the data center, eliminating the need to deploy local storage at the branch office. IT administrators provision storage at the data center and virtually present it to applications executing in the branch office. Thus, the application is able to execute locally, eliminating performance bottlenecks introduced by distance between the client and the server. With edge-vsi, infrastructure is centralized, but the end-user experience is not impacted. Manage increased network dependency and contention As enterprises centralize applications and become more dependent on the WAN to deliver applications to end users in branch offices and remote sites, visibility and control become critical to managing network resources. Many organizations have employed Quality of Service (QoS) to finely control the mix of application traffic across the WAN and make better use of scarce network resources. Advanced QoS integrates intelligence that accurately recognizes applications and provides protection and predictability for latency sensitive applications. Finally, also essential for a successful centralized application infrastructure is a consistent feedback loop via application-aware network performance monitoring to report and troubleshoot performance of enterprise applications. Strategy Four: Minimize Branch IT Even with most applications and file servers centralized, services like print, DNS, DHCP, and security firewalls need to remain in the branch location. But maintaining onsite servers dedicated to each service increases the overhead of each branch and creates greater management complexity. Consolidating infrastructure within the branch can lighten the IT footprint at remote locations and improve cost efficiency. However, it must be done within a framework that supports user performance requirements and IT control and management systems. Virtualize edge services and applications Once organizations have widely implemented IT infrastructure consolidation they may find that there are still services that must by their very nature be delivered locally. Local print, DNS, and DHCP servers are examples of these types of edge services that defy Which applications and services need to run locally in branches? Can infrastructure serve multiple purposes in the branch? How can central administrators monitor branch IT and manage the end-user experience without adding infrastructure in the branch? many infrastructure centralization efforts. Applications and services that need to execute at the edge can still benefit from innovations like server virtualization. Leading WAN optimization solutions now allow organizations to run these services on their appliances, so organizations can eliminate these redundant branch servers to further reduce hardware, software, maintenance costs, and complexity Riverbed Technology. All rights reserved. 6

8 Maintain visibility without overhead As each branch operates on its own LAN environment, visibility at the branch is necessary to monitor optimized WAN traffic and local LAN traffic (including Internet and SaaS traffic) that never reaches the data center. Dedicated probes and devices, however, increase the IT footprint at each branch office, introducing administration and infrastructure overhead. Wherever possible, using a system that can passively collect network performance data and capture packet details from existing infrastructure, such as routers and even WAN optimization appliances, provides centralized IT administrators the visibility they need into branch traffic without introducing additional hardware or taxing the network. Conclusion Consolidation projects have moved beyond beginner tactics. The goals of advanced consolidation strategies remain largely the same greater efficiency and the opportunity to streamline and automate IT processes. But there are new challenges to ensure that users in the branch experience the performance that they require, that IT maintains the control it requires across data center and branch operations, and that the business realizes the maximum return on its IT investment. Key Enabling Technologies for Advanced Consolidation Strategies Ø WAN optimization controllers provide symmetrical solutions to improve the performance, efficiency, deployment and security of a wide range of applications. Ø Application-aware network performance monitoring consists of measuring and monitoring networks to ensure that they carry traffic with the speed, reliability, and capacity that is appropriate for deployed applications. Ø Application delivery controllers (ADCs), often described as next generation load balancers, provide asymmetrical solutions to improve the performance, efficiency, deployment and security of a wide range of applications. Ø Edge virtual server infrastructure enables virtual machines to deliver local applications and data in remote offices while being fully managed within the data center. Discovery and dependency mapping is the key to consolidation planning Many organizations do not have a clear, accurate picture of what is running on their network specifically which applications, servers, and users use the network and what dependencies exist between them. When it comes time to consolidate and centralize infrastructure, however, it s extremely risky to make network changes until IT assets are properly discovered and mapped. Traditional discovery methods have been slow, expensive, and error-prone. Using a discovery and dependency mapping system reduces the risk of consolidation-related changes and accelerates the time to planned cost savings. Overcoming WAN limitations creates numerous consolidation opportunities Regional data centers and branch offices are distributed across regions to address the needs of local markets, but consolidating these poses a challenge to enterprise-wide as centralized applications suffer increasingly poor performance from high latency, limited bandwidth, congestion, and/or packet loss found on long distance WAN connections. Optimizing WAN connections between branch offices and data centers allows IT to eliminate lower-tier data centers and centralize applications without impeding end-user productivity. Advanced optimization capabilities, such as QoS and edge virtual server infrastructure (edge- VSI), provide greater control over contending WAN traffic and expand the types of applications that can be centralized, respectively. Flexible application delivery enables seamless end-user experiences throughout consolidation While moving to a more cost-efficient and secure architecture are primary goals of consolidation, broader IT goals of delivering end-user access and productivity are often threatened by the transformation process Riverbed Technology. All rights reserved. 7

9 Applying an intermediary between users and applications, such as an application delivery controller (ADC), creates a new point of control to ensure a consistent, or even improved, end-user experience during infrastructure changes. Furthermore, a virtual ADC offers greater flexibility and modularity, consistent with the virtualization and efficiency goals of consolidation efforts. Through the process of selecting which consolidation strategies to apply to meet business needs, doing the appropriate analysis and planning, and using the appropriate technologies, organizations are in a position to maximize utilization of virtualized data centers and extend the benefits of consolidation across the enterprise. About Riverbed Riverbed delivers performance for the globally connected enterprise. With Riverbed, enterprises can successfully and intelligently implement strategic initiatives such as virtualization, consolidation, cloud computing, and disaster recovery without fear of compromising performance. By giving enterprises the platform they need to understand, optimize and consolidate their IT, Riverbed helps enterprises to build a fast, fluid and dynamic IT architecture that aligns with the business needs of the organization. Additional information about Riverbed (NASDAQ: RVBD) is available at Riverbed Technology. All rights reserved. 8

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