Monday, July 6, 2009

Consolidation, modernization, and virtualization: A triple-play for long-term enterprise IT cost reduction

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Read a full transcript of the discussion.

As the global economic downturn accelerates the need to reduce total technology costs, IT consolidation, application modernization, and server virtualization play self-supporting roles alone -- and in combination.

Taken apart these initiatives offer greater efficiency and reduced IT energy demands. But combined, these initiatives produce much greater costs controls by slashing labor and maintenance costs, producing far better server utilization rates, and removing unneeded or unused applications and data.

These initiatives when done in coordination can do more than cut costs, they improve how IT delivers services to their businesses. A better IT infrastructure enables market agility, supports flexible business processes, and places the enterprise architect in a position to better leverage flexible sourcing options such as cloud computing and SaaS.

To dig into the relationship between a modern and consolidated approach to IT data centers and total cost, I recently interviewed John Bennett, worldwide solution manager for Data Center Transformation Solutions at Hewlett-Packard (HP).

Here are some excerpts:
Bennett: It’s easy to say, "reduce costs." It’s very difficult to understand what types of costs I can reduce and what kind of savings I get from them.

In my mind, the themes of consolidation, which people have been doing forever; modernization, very consciously making decisions to replace existing infrastructure with newer infrastructure for gains other than performance; and virtualization, which has a lot of promise in terms of driving cost out of the organization can increase aspects like flexibility and agility. ... [These allow companies] to grow quickly, to respond the competitive opportunities or threats very quickly, and offer the ability for IT to enable the business to be more aggressive, rather than becoming a limiting factor in the roll-out of new products or services.

By combining these initiatives, and taking an integrated approach to them, ... you can use them to address a broad set of issues, and realize aspects of a data center transformation by approaching these things in an orderly and planned way.

When you move to a shared infrastructure environment, the value of that environment is enhanced the more you have standardized that environment. That makes it much easier not only to manage the environment with a smaller numbers of sys-admins, but gives you a much greater opportunity to automate the processes and procedures.

... I no longer have the infrastructure and the assets tied to specific business services and applications. If I have unexpected growth, I can support it by using resources that are not being used quite as much in the environment. It’s like having a reserve line of troops that you can throw into the fray.

If you have an opportunity and you can deploy servers and assets in the matter of hours instead of a matter of days or months, IT becomes an enabler for the business to be more responsive. You can respond to competitive threats, respond to competitive opportunities, roll out new business services much more quickly, because the processes are much quicker and much more efficient. Now, IT becomes a partner in helping the business take advantage of opportunities, rather than delaying the availability of new products and services.

We’ve seen some other issues pop up in the last several years as well. One of them is an increasing focus on green, which means a business perspective on being green as an organization. For many IT organizations, it means really looking to reduce energy consumption and energy-related costs.

In some of the generations of servers that we’ve released, we see 15 to 25 percent improvements from a cost perspective and an energy consumption perspective, just based on modernizing the infrastructure. So, there are cost savings that can be had by replacing older devices with newer ones.

We’ve also seen in many organizations, as they move to a bladed infrastructure and move to denser environments, that the data center capacity and energy constrain -- that the amount of energy available to a data center -- is also an inhibiting factor. It’s one of the reasons that we really advise customers to take a look at doing consolidation, modernization, and virtualization together.

[These efficiencies] have been enhanced by a lot of the improvements in the IT products themselves. They are now instrumented for increasing

What we’re doing as a company is focusing on the management and the automation of that environment, because we see virtualization really stressing data center and infrastructure management environments pretty substantively.

manageability and automation. The products are integrated to provide management support not just for availability and for performance, but also for energy. They're instrumented to support the automation of the environment, including the ability to turn off servers that you don’t know or care about. They’re further enhanced by the enhancements in virtualization.

With virtualization ... it becomes a shared environment, and your shared environment is just more productive and more flexible if it’s one shared environment instead of 3, 4, 5 or 10 shared environments. That increases the density and it goes back to these other factors that we talked about. That’s clearly one of the more recent trends of the last few years in many data centers.

A lot of people are doing virtualization. What we’re doing as a company is focusing on the management and the automation of that environment, because we see virtualization really stressing data center and infrastructure management environments pretty substantively. In many cases, it's impacting governance of the data center. ... So, you really have full control, insight, and governance over everything taking place in the data center.

Our recommendations to many customers would be, first of all, if you identify assets that aren’t being used at all, just get rid of them. The cost savings are immediate. ... Identify all of the assets in the environment, the applications, software they're running, and the interdependencies between them. In effect, you build up a map of the infrastructure and know what everything is doing. You can very quickly see if there are servers, for example, not doing anything.

If I've got 10 servers doing this particular application and I can have that support the environment by using 3 of those servers, get rid of 7. I can modernize the environment, so that if I had 10 servers doing this work before, and the consolidation gives me the opportunity to go to only to 6 or 7, if I modernize, I might be able to reduce it to 2 or 3.

On top of that, I can explore virtualization. Typically, in environments not using virtualization, server utilization rates, especially for industry standard servers, are under 10 percent. That can be driven up to 70 or 80 percent or even higher by virtualizing the workloads. Now, you can go from 10 to 3 to perhaps just 1 server doing the work. Ten to 3 to 1 is an example. In many environments, you may have hundreds of servers supporting web-based applications or email. The number of servers that can be reduced out from that can be pretty phenomenal.
Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.