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Federal data center consolidation continues: Crafting a plan to virtualization

For the past few years, federal government entities have been working to consolidate the number of data centers they rely on. Virtualization strategies have helped this approach along, but reducing both physical servers as well as computing facilities requires special considerations and planning.

‘Yay or nay’: DoD works to close data centers

One organization participating in this initiative is the Department of Defense, which has been on the road to consolidation for about five years, according to Federal News Radio. A main objective of the consolidation efforts is cost savings – by reducing the number of physical servers and facilities, the government can save considerably on utilities, property and other overhead costs.

Currently, the DoD is using a “yay or nay” approach, where teams visit certain data center properties to determine whether or not these facilities are candidates for closure. If a data center is selected to be closed, the team must then decide where the data residing at that building should be migrated.

“The U.S. government has saved more than $1 billion thanks to its server and data center consolidation efforts.”

DoD CIO Terry Halvorsen noted that one of the most important considerations the team makes as far as data center closures is what the facilities currently cost the government to operate.

“What they cost, that doesn’t make them an immediate candidate for closure, it just means if I close them the potential for savings is higher because that’s where the biggest pile of money is,” Halvorsen pointed out.

Significant savings to be had

Halvorsen isn’t the only one keeping an eye on the bottom line. DatacenterDynamics recently reported that overall, the U.S. government has saved more than $1 billion thanks to its server and data center consolidation efforts. Currently, 24 federal agencies are taking part in the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, which was first established in 2010.

According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, at the start of these efforts, the government had around 9,000 data centers in operation, and was hoping to have almost half this number in operation, with a closing goal of 44 percent. By early 2014, 640 data centers had already been closed and an additional 470 had been identified for closure.

Planning required

An initiative of this size demands that the right planning and considerations be in place in order for success. Any oversight could result in lost data or gaps in the federal infrastructure. For this reason, cost isn’t the only variable that teams consider when they visit federal data centers.

The DoD, for example, also examines how each facility leverages its staff members and whether or not the data center has more advanced technologies in place.

“The biggest cost driver we have in our data centers is people, and what we’ll look at is how many people are doing what,” Halvorsen said. “If you still have a lot of people doing monitoring and maintenance of servers, that’s bad use of people. That can be automated today, and in our efficient data centers, that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Federal entities are looking to close and consolidate almost half of the government’s data centers.

Server consolidation: A plan for success

One of the most powerful processes here is server consolidation. However, this strategy requires very particular planning as well.

TechTarget noted that taking a three-phased approach can be beneficial. The first step here is data collection, where initiative stakeholders gather information to better understand resource usage, historical trends and other important metrics. While this is typically the longest part of the process, it ensures that the team can leverage the best data to inform their consolidation decisions.

From here, the team can determine the server consolidation ratio, where certain servers are identified for virtualization and stakeholders decide how many virtual environments they will need.

Finally, the team can move on to migration and monitoring, where data is moved to the new virtual environments and performance can be monitored to ensure success.

VMware and iT1 Source: Experts in virtualization and consolidation

While having the right plans in place can be invaluable, partnering with an expert service provider can help guarantee that processes are streamlined and carried out in the best way possible. Even the DoD is looking to partner with top names in the technology sector.

iT1 Source has partnerships with a range of best-of-breed providers, including VMware, a leader in data center consolidation and server virtualization. To find out more about how a consolidation and virtualization solution from VMware can benefit your organization, contact one of our expert iT1 Source consultants today.

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