Virtualization: Your First Step to Data Center Consolidation

Medical Technology, Healthcare & Government IT

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The Obama Administration has taken a hard look at the Federal IT infrastructure, and has come to the conclusion there’s way too much of flab that needs to be trimmed. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has been put on the job, and he’s got his task cut out – reduce information technology costs, lower energy consumption, minimize IT real estate space utilization, bolster information security, and expand the use of cloud computing. Kundra has laid out a roadmap that proposes to:

  •  Promote the use of Green IT by reducing the overall energy and real estate footprint of government data centers;
  •  Reduce the cost of data center hardware, software and operations;
  • Increase the overall IT security posture of the government; and,
  • Shift IT investments to more efficient computing platforms and technologies.

One major area of concern has been the proliferation of resource hungry data centers and server farms, which currently number more than 1,100. The government has been spending billions on these behemoths annually, but many of these remain under utilized. Data center consolidation therefore is high on Kundra’s priority list. It helps to contain server sprawl and simplify data center management. It reduces the load on servers during peak hours, resulting in improved performance, availability and scalability as well as lower maintenance costs.

Data Center Consolidation

Never has there been more pressure on Federal IT to deliver higher levels of service or greater degree of availability than today. Likewise, never has it been more constrained to cut back on costs than it has now. Making sure your technology environment is efficient and effectively managed has become absolutely essential. Your data center by its very nature is where a substantial portion of your IT resources are concentrated, and that’s where you should start if you want to improve your computing environment and cut costs at the same time.

Data center consolidation means more than merely combining servers. Detailed below are a number of other factors that go into it, all of which translate into an opportunity for reduced cost and greater manageability.

  •  The problem of multiple physical locations: By reducing the number of physical locations of your data centers and combining their operations, you can substantially reduce cost overheads. While multiple data center locations used to be a way to meet the need for disaster recovery and business continuity, there are better ways to address those concerns now.
  •  Server consolidation: This not only implies utilizing unused server capacity, but also analyzing the historical CPU and memory usage patterns of the applications running on them, and consolidating them in an intelligent way.
  • Infrastructure management: This includes creating more efficient networks and better storage management. It also includes utilizing shared services to the extent possible.
  • Optimizing space and power utilization: This will result in a greener computing environment as well as in substantial cost savings.
  • Managing people and processes: This will perhaps be your biggest challenge, because while it’s quite a straight forward matter to switch servers, bringing your personnel up to speed on those changes can be more tasking.
The Benefits of Data Center Consolidation

By simplifying and consolidating your data center environment, you achieve several goals including the following:

  • Better manageability
  • Reduced costs in the areas of human resources and infrastructure facilities
  • Improved service levels and higher availability
  • Minimization of impact from external factors
Server Virtualization: The Best Way to Consolidate Your Data Center

Data center consolidation can best be achieved through server virtualization. It enables your physical servers to leverage unused capacity to support multiple workloads on simultaneously running virtual machines. It can thus help you significantly reduce the number of servers in your data center, which in turn will result in less hardware, less rack space, less cabling, less cooling, and less energy being used. This translates into lower capital costs and a substantial reduction in your ongoing maintenance expenses as well.

But virtualization is not merely about reducing the physical footprint of the servers in your data center and the resultant cost savings. It’s more about dynamically launching applications, reducing latency and expediting disaster recovery. It’s about reducing the number of tiers on your network, aggregating traffic and adding multiple devices that work like one — all of which will contribute to simplifying your operations and ensuring your network’s performance and latency are at acceptable levels.

The Benefits of Virtualization

Server virtualization can bring you a host of benefits, some of which are enumerated below:

  •  Virtualization can help you maximize network asset utilization.
  • Fewer physical servers result in reduced capital and operational expenses.
  • Fewer servers also mean reduced energy requirements and a lower carbon footprint.
  •  Virtualization can substantially reduce your rack space requirements and capital expenditure on real estate.
  • By having each application deployed within its own virtual machine, you can prevent one application from impacting another when upgrades or changes are made.
  • Virtualization allows you to develop a standard virtual server build that can easily be duplicated, thus speeding up server deployment.
  • Virtualization allows you to deploy multiple operating systems on a single hardware platform.
  • Virtualization allows you to deliver computing resources on demand, and seamlessly move data to any location on the fly.

Federal agencies would do well to shift focus from merely maintaining their server farms and data centers on which about 70% of a typical IT budget is being spent today, and instead focus their attention on efficiency and innovation, and on improving the availability of their IT resources and applications through virtualization. They should look at building virtualized networks with the ability to scale across hundreds of interconnected physical computers and storage devices. This will not only result in enhanced performance, security and availability across the board, but also in the lowest TCO over the long term, and in saving billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

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