How to Consolidate Your IT Infrastructure?

Updated: April 19, 2010

Consolidation process starting... now...

During consolidation phase you should definitely choose few vendors you trust and stick with them. This approach could lead you to great cost savings because you're buying equipment from a few vendors that can bundle offered technologies together and give you a better discount. Let's say that you buy servers, storage, backup platform and virtualization software from one vendor, and OS from other vendor (or vendors). This way you can get something for free, ending in great savings (hardware comes with discounts, while services are something you'll have to pay for).

Virtualization is a very popular buzzword these days, and rightfully so. This technology can lead to savings of more than 50% in some larger scale enviroments. What you do with virtualization is present a physical machine as a virtual one. We're not talking only about servers now; everything can be virtualized - storage, network and desktop. When choosing the right virtualization platform you should first consider its' capital expenses and possibility of bundling with hardware you're buying from the trusted vendor. Also, do a TCO and ROI calculation to check if this solution suits your needs.

Like I said before, there are few types of virtualization, and we'll try to explain what a particular type of virtualization does to the enviroment. These virtualization solutions are most common in todays IT enviroments, so we won't discuss some specialized virtualization solutions (virtual tape libraries, replication solutions and similar).

  • server virtualization is used to run several server-type OS's (Windows, Linux, UNIX) on one physical machine while at the same time offering advanced features such as high availability clustering, live migrations which can be useful during maintenance hours, centralized management, and several other very neat features.
  • storage virtualization is a technology that offers storage array consolidation by masking storage arrays from different vendors and making them visible through a single storage virtualization appliance. This approach offers centralized tiering management and greater performance if well designed.
  • desktop virtualization is used to run virtualized instances of your desktop OS (Windows mostly) in a datacenter while streaming only picture to the client. With it's great consolidation ratio (4-8 virtual desktop machines on one CPU core) it offers great TCO and ROI compared to traditional desktop computers. Managing virtual desktop machines is much easier than managing traditional desktop computers.

Also, as the goal of consolidations is lowering your overall costs, there is a possibility of storage tiering as well. Storage tiering is basically a concept of storing certain types data on an appropriate type of drive. If you've got data that an application accesses very often (e.g. databases), then you'll want to keep that data on your fastest and most expensive drives, but if we're talking about application such as backup-to-disk, then there is no need to spend money on expensive high-performance flash drives. You can use conventional high-capacity slow SATA drives for this purpose.

The last type of consolidation you should check is the cloud. If it's expensive for you to run some part of your IT enviroment in your datacenter, then you could run it from a cloud. With cloud computing you are basically renting part of a vendor's infrastructure and you can consider it your operative expenses (Opex). Typical examples of cloud services are e-mail (anybody heard about GMail?), backup, online collaboration, even desktop machines.

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