The ROI of server consolidation

It might be a quick route to lowering your TCO, but server consolidation comes in various forms -- and IT managers need to know the pros and cons attached to each option before choosing a consolidation path.

There's a huge opportunity for IT budget savings by reducing IT labor requirements – primarily administration and

support. In fact, more than 70% of the total cost of ownership (TCO) for typical data centers is for labor or outsourced services.

The high cost of labor, particularly performing mundane administrative and support tasks, is one of the key reasons why little of the IT budget is left for innovative projects that can help deliver competitive value.

That's where server consolidation enters the picture. It's one of the most effective ways to lower TCO of a company's data center. Typically performed using one of the four strategies highlighted here, server consolidation methods can be applied independently or simultaneously.

Physical consolidation

This means collecting servers distributed across multiple remote/branch offices and business units into a central data center.

Pros:

The team can improve configuration control by restricting server access, and strengthening business resilience through the superior data center infrastructure and security. It can also eliminate the cost of moves, add-ons, and changes (MACs), as well as break-fix maintenance and support by eliminating travel time and expenses.

Physical consolidation can help the team reduce complexity and more easily standardize purchases, configurations and management best practices. Costs to implement physical consolidation are low, and consist of network enhancements to support the centralization, data center build-out to support the consolidation, and physically moving the servers. Ultimately, IT labor savings can reach 10%.

Cons:

The risks are performance degradations due to poor network planning and business resilience risks by having all of the server assets in "one basket," particularly if the data center does not have adequate recovery plans.

Re-hosting

Porting from older legacy platforms and operating systems to newer solutions often results in consolidation, as fewer new high-performance systems are typically needed to support the workload.

Pros:

Depending on the age of a legacy system, expensive support and maintenance contracts can be eliminated. Since the number of administrators and support labor is usually correlated to the number of individual servers, having fewer servers generates proportional administration and support labor savings.

Migrating the operating system to a newer version enhances availability, security, management features and performance, and provides better upgrade options.

Cons:

If the proposed system for re-hosting is not compatible with the prior systems, the application may require porting to another platform, custom code rewrites, procedures and data migration. Porting costs are often underestimated.

Logical consolidation

Individual servers are often configured into individual server "islands" with 40% or more headroom to allow for changes in workload and growth. Using logical consolidation, hard partitions can be established for the operating system, application, processors and memory requirements so that these individual server "islands" are pooled onto a single server or cluster. That way, fewer servers are needed because headroom is reduced and the applications are hosted on a single cluster. The team can change the partitions to allocate more resources as needed for workload changes, as opposed to managing moves, adds and changes physically on multiple "islands" of individual servers.

Pros:

Logical consolidation on a shared server can save 40% or more of overhead headroom, and a proportional decrease in server assets. This can lead to a similar reduction in administration and support.

Cons:

Logical consolidation requires manually managing the hard partitions, made difficult in a dynamic environment where workloads change frequently. This process can be difficult and can introduce management burden and complexity. Many business units will not support logical consolidation where they must share servers, and will need to be "sold" on the business merits of consolidation and assured that service levels will hold steady or increase.

Workload optimization

The server operating system (such as with HP-UX11i's virtualization features) or third-party utilities (such as EMC's VMWare) can be configured to intelligently manage server resource allocation based on workload demands. Partitions can be established based on demand and schedule rules, and the system takes care of the rest, allocating computing power to automatically meet needs.

Pros:

Fewer CPUs, and in turn, fewer servers are needed to support multi-application workloads. For multi-application portfolios, this approach maximizes asset utilization and consolidation, reducing software licensing requirements, facilities costs and labor -- saving at leat 40 % based on the application profiles. Typically, fewer, smaller applications that peak at different times drive the highest consolidation. Because the system manages workloads and partitions, administration and support are minimized.

Cons:

Establishing workload optimization configuration and rules will take some time and can be complex, requiring professional services assistance. As with logical consolidation, business unit apprehensions and business resilience best practices apply.

 

Application Portfolio Scenarios

Applications in the Portfolio

CPUs Needed During Normal Operations

CPUs Needed During Peak Operations

Percentage of Applications that Peak at same Time of Day

CPUs without Workload Optimization

( Islands Scenario)

CPUs with Workload Optimization

CPU's Saved

% CPUs Saved

Single application

1

2

8

100%

8

8

0

0%

Few small applications

5

0.5

2

50%

10

7

3

30%

Many medium applications

10

2

8

50%

80

50

30

38%

Few applications where 2 workloads peak at once

3

1

5

66%

15

11

4

27%

Many small applications

10

0.25

0.75

40%

8

5

3

38%

Few large applications

2

5

25

50%

50

30

20

40%

Many applications, workloads peak at different times

10

2

6

25%

60

30

30

50%

Using workload analysis, standard and workload optimized environments show where the maximum consolidation savings could be achieved via workload optimization.

The ROI Analysis

The right consolidation decision takes careful analysis of current TCO, proposed consolidation options and architectures, required investments, and potential savings. Because the analysis is complex, internal IT teams should consult with independent analysts and performance benchmarking sites (such as www.spec.org and put vendors to task (with requisite scrutiny), to help propose and analyze current opportunities and various consolidation options. Comparing the solutions' TCO and service levels head-to-head with a TCO analysis tool can provide the team with visibility into potential savings, and provide justification needed to empower the business to make the right decision.

Tom Pisello is the founder and CEO of Orlando, Fla.-based Alinean, an ROI consultancy and software provider. He can be reached at tpisello@alinean.com. For more information and exclusive access to server TCO analysis tools and white papers, visit Alinean.com.


This article originally appeared on SearchCIO.com.

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