Managing Data Center Growth Explore Your Options

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1 Managing Growth Explore Your Options

2 Managing Growth: Managing The increasing demand on data centers has forced many IT managers to look for new ways to manage data center growth, either by consolidating, colocating or moving to the cloud. This e-guide, from SearchDataCenter.com, looks at all the available options for data center management and describes how an ITIL lifecycle can benefit a data center consolidation strategy. Managing Collocate or Move to By: Frant Ohlhorst One of the biggest challenges IT managers face today is increased demand on data centers. New technologies, security threats and compliance requirements have forced many IT execs to consider other data center options, from consolidation to IT outsourcing options such as cloud computing and colocation providers. In the past, when large budgets, venture capital investments and growing revenues reigned supreme, solving data center overutilization problems was a simple matter of building a bigger and better data center. With today's economic downturn, that solution just won't fly. Data center managers have found themselves dealing with annoying details, such as return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO), before the CFO loosens funding for any project, particularly breaking ground on a new data center facility. IT execs must perform due diligence before proposing a solution an overutilized data center, and that requires a long, hard look at the problem and all available options. With data centers, there are many paths to consider. If the data center is running space, thermal footprint or energy usage in the data center, IT managers should look at consolidation first. Can the existing servers be replaced by blades or other technologies? Can virtualization be Page 2 of 10

3 Managing Growth: implemented? Can services be combined on servers? Can storage be improved? All of these are viable questions. Managing If hardware utilization is the root cause of the problem, IT pros should consider server virtualization. Many applications have responded well to server consolidation with virtualization technology. Simply put, if an individual CPU is underutilized, deploying multiple virtual servers under that same CPU may reduce the need for physical servers and stave off a major upgrade. However, virtualization and server consolidation can increase power use and cooling needs of individual servers, and some data centers may not be able to handle the increased power and cooling density. If the answer is "no" to the data center consolidation question, which options does that leave data center managers? Luckily, there are other paths to follow. First and foremost is the option of using colocation services, where space and equipment can be leased in another data center. Colocation offers several advantages for those looking to expand or replace data centers. Bandwidth and initial costs. Colocation data centers are usually equipped with redundant and high-speed connections to multiple Internet backbone networks. That brings redundancy into a corporate network while defraying some of the costs of provisioning high-speed connections. Uptime. Colocation facilities can offer better protection against outages, equivalent to large corporations' data centers. Most colocation sites offer five 9s (99.999%) of reliability and incorporate redundant power lines, on-site backup generators and multi-homed Internet connections. Most colocation centers also carry spare or replacement parts on-site, reducing the time it takes to repair a failed device. Ownership. Most colocation centers offer clients ownership of the hardware in use. That allows corporations to upgrade hardware and software as needed. Page 3 of 10

4 Managing Growth: Relocation. If a business moves or relocates offices, the colocation site is unaffected and there will be no downtime. Managing Management. Most colocation centers offer on-site hardware and software management, eliminating the need to place employees onsite fulltime. Security. Most colocation sites have hardened security features with controlled access and incorporate the latest security products at the edge. It is not uncommon for a colocation site to keep a customer's racks locked in secure cages. For some, colocation may be an ideal solution, but there can be downsides to this approach that data center managers need to be aware of before making the leap into colocation center. Location. Colocation centers that are convenient or close to corporate headquarters may be hard to find. Distance translates into increased travel costs. Expense. A colocation provider may require the lease or purchase of space, hardware and software with a substantial markup. Colocation centers may also have additional charges or surcharges for staff, energy use and bandwidth. Users are also locked into long-term contracts, which may prevent renegotiating rates as prices fall industry wide. Access. Physical access to the equipment may be limited, relying on the staff at the colocation site. Just like any other technology, colocation has its pros and cons, meaning that IT managers will have to carefully balance all factors before making a decision to pursue a colocation arrangement. Further complicating the decision process is yet another group of technologies that can be used instead of a colocation arrangement or data center expansion. That group of technologies is collectively called "cloud computing" or "the cloud." Page 4 of 10

5 Managing Growth: Managing A cloud computing provider can be a viable alternative to traditional data center expansion, yet it still suffers from growing pains and vendors entering and exiting the market. In its simplest form, cloud computing equals moving corporate applications onto hosted systems or virtual servers and accessing those applications via a Web browser or other local client technology. Simply put, all data and code is moved over to a cloud services provider and then accessed via the Web. Some reasons to move to the cloud include the following pros. Fast startup. For applications that are already cloud-enabled or services that already exist, moving to the cloud can be almost instantaneous. Scalability. Most cloud services providers can scale up or down as needed to meet corporate needs. Cloud computing works well for seasonal demands and projects that vary in scope and size. Agility. Cloud services can quickly evolve to meet business needs, without requiring a major re-engineering effort. Lowered capital expenditures. Most cloud services bill based upon usage with a flat-fee scale, eliminating large initial capital expenditures. Lower support costs. Support is usually included with the services, eliminating the need for dedicated IT support staff or internal help desks. Reduced user expenses. Most cloud services require little more than a browser-equipped PC. While many of the pros make for a compelling argument to use the cloud to deliver IT services, IT managers need to be aware that there are still many cons associated with the cloud. Page 5 of 10

6 Managing Growth: Managing Connection dependency. Users must have reliable Internet connections to use cloud services effectively. Reliability. Cloud services may not offer the same level of reliability as other options. Latency. Cloud services can experience latency and performance problems caused by reliance on the public Internet. Security. Cloud services are accessible via the Internet and may be subject to interception, blended attacks and other security problems. Data ownership. Careful consideration must be applied to the ownership of intellectual property and who has access. Applications. Line-of-business applications may need to be reengineered or replaced to work in the cloud. Most data center managers will find that before choosing cloud computing, significant planning and due diligence must be performed. That said, the cloud does offer IT execs a way to perform pilot projects before committing to a final decision. Data center managers will find that the several options presented above may fit different IT needs based upon the size of the organization. For example, a small business that depends on high Web traffic will benefit from a simple managed Web hosting solution, which may be the most economical solution. A large enterprise may find it more cost-effective to keep its Web operations in-house, especially if it has a well-developed IT staff and plenty of server space. On the other hand, Web applications that require more robust servers than typical Web hosts provide can benefit from colocation. Finally, many midrange companies may find that colocation is an ideal compromise between renting space on preconfigured servers and owning an expensive data center. Page 6 of 10

7 Managing Growth: Managing Many organizations have looked to data center consolidation to reduce IT costs and increase capacity. The rationale is that newer technology and fewer data centers can cut operating expenses. However, data center consolidation is complex and risky, and cost reductions are not guaranteed. Some IT organizations have mature data center processes that can support the transition of services from one data center to another. There are many dependencies to take into account during a data center consolidation, and an experienced IT staff understands that a holistic service perspective is needed to analyze what must be moved. In contrast, the majority of IT organizations tend to lack the experience and process maturity to undertake consolidation with predictable outcomes. These groups need to develop their capabilities quickly. For organizations that are constrained by deadlines, it may not be possible to spend months designing and implementing full-blown integrated processes; instead, tactical processes must be rapidly assembled. The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) can be beneficial as a source of reference to identify key considerations during the movement of services, even if the consolidation is done in an accelerated manner. One reason that ITIL is relevant to data center consolidation initiatives is the concept of a service. When IT delivers a service, there's far more involved than just hardware and software. For a successful migration, all crucial elements must be taken into account. Everything may not be replicated, but management must at least understand the requirements and make welleducated decisions. If we look to the ITIL lifecycle, the processes that underpin each lifecycle phase can be used to suit the needs at hand. Page 7 of 10

8 Managing Growth: Managing Service strategy It is important to understand the objectives of the data center consolidation. You must identify the candidate services and make sure you understand the business processes that each service supports. From there, you can design a roadmap for the services from a design and capacity perspective. Then you can create a prioritized list of services to move, taking risks, opportunities and dependencies into consideration. Service design Each candidate service must be thoroughly understood. This includes configuration item relationships between hardware, software, people, documentation and facilities. It also means that knowledge about the services' design and operation must be captured, codified and transferred. Organizations cannot afford protracted learning curves while site personnel in the new data center become familiar with transplanted services. Instead, supporting knowledge for design and operating specifications must transition as well. It's equally critical to understand service-level expectations (even informal ones), capacity requirements and events related to each service. Service transition The candidate services need to be project-managed and governed by change management. Production releases must be carefully coordinated, with dependencies and risks taken into account. You must undertake proper testing and validation to help ensure that services will run as expected in the new data center. Service operations Technical operations, service desk and resolution-process staff, as well as relevant stakeholders, must have the training to support the technologies and ready access to repositories such as the service knowledge management system that identify how to maintain the services. If there are challenges, engineering must be engaged to revise procedures and checklists in a controlled manner. Continuous improvement There must be a formal method, based on lessons learned during the data Page 8 of 10

9 Managing Growth: Managing center consolidation, to improve the transitioned services and update the processes that support consolidation and production. If the previous site had improvement plans, those need to become part of the transition as well. The above considerations are examples, and the main point is that the ITIL lifecycle can teach us a great deal and we can use it as the basis of expedient processes for data center consolidation. The initial discoveryrelated processes will need to identify and document the current state of the data center, where there are opportunities to improve, what needs to be done to transition each service and how to operate the services in the future. Page 9 of 10

10 Managing Growth: Managing Free resources for technology professionals TechTarget publishes targeted technology media that address your need for information and resources for researching products, developing strategy and making cost-effective purchase decisions. Our network of technology-specific Web sites gives you access to industry experts, independent content and analysis and the Web s largest library of vendor-provided white papers, webcasts, podcasts, videos, virtual trade shows, research reports and more drawing on the rich R&D resources of technology providers to address market trends, challenges and solutions. Our live events and virtual seminars give you access to vendor neutral, expert commentary and advice on the issues and challenges you face daily. Our social community IT Knowledge Exchange allows you to share real world information in real time with peers and experts. What makes TechTarget unique? TechTarget is squarely focused on the enterprise IT space. Our team of editors and network of industry experts provide the richest, most relevant content to IT professionals and management. We leverage the immediacy of the Web, the networking and face-to-face opportunities of events and virtual events, and the ability to interact with peers all to create compelling and actionable information for enterprise IT professionals across all industries and markets. Related TechTarget Websites Page 10 of 10

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