Data centre strategies: Optimising IT infrastructures

When optimising performance across application and service delivery platforms, especially with virtualisation involved, make sure you have the best data centre strategies in place.

A data centre is a massive investment, with organisations using tens or hundreds of servers to support the systems, applications and services that its users require. For companies that have a huge range of different technologies in place, how can they optimise performance across a mix of application and service delivery platforms?

Following the first wave of virtualisation hitting the data centre, organisations are now looking at how they can get more value from IT. These efficiencies can be delivered through routes such as further virtualisation of resources, more consolidation of existing physical servers or changes in infrastructure strategy.

However, making the right strategic decisions that will provide future benefits is difficult without the right information. To find where the biggest pain points and opportunities are within an organisation's data centre infrastructure, the key is to monitor the users and how they interact with the applications present across the organisation's IT infrastructure.

This can be done with the use of IT intelligence tools, such as Centrix WorkSpace. By following this process, the IT team responsible for data centre optimisation can see how services are consumed, and therefore see where the most benefit can be made from changes to IT strategy.

For example, 100 users may be accessing an application based on servers in one location, while only five may be accessing an application held on a different physical server. The data centre manager needs to decide if the latter application should be moved to a server-based computing environment, be virtualised or remain where it is.

How to consolidate a server environment
Another example involves a situation where virtual server farms, perhaps running Citrix or VMware, are in place. Can the company consolidate these server environments? What would the impact be on users due to latency and location? And what are the potential cost savings?

In these examples, the information required to make the right strategic choice will come from how the application is used. If usage levels for an application on a physical server are low, then the system may be a good candidate for virtualisation.

A virtual machine with low usage levels could have its amount of resources reduced to allow further consolidation.

Rob Greenslade, Sales and Marketing Director, Centralis,

Similarly, a virtual machine (VM) with low usage levels could have its amount of resources reduced to allow further consolidation. This data can also be used for cost-benefit analysis. Studying how much it costs to deliver the whole service to a user based on the infrastructure, platform and licenses with different technology choices can show where there are further opportunities for data centre consolidation and/or investment.

Too often, the data centre is split into silos of technology, with responsibility for those services divided up between members of the IT team. For the data centre manager, this makes getting an overview of all these responsibilities and the opportunities for savings difficult. By looking at the data for usage, these challenges can be overcome and the most appropriate choices taken for the future.

Another oft-encountered challenge organisations have to face is when multiple data centres are in action. Different technology choices may be made at each location. For example, mergers and acquisitions make it difficult to compare the established IT implementations that are present across these different sites, as different cost models and buying decisions may have been made in the past.

Justifying the right strategy for the future always comes down to having the right information on how users are working with their applications and services. Based on this information, the data centre manager can model their operations to see whether the company should consolidate down to a single data centre, or whether it should continue with running multiple sites. Decisions can also be made on whether the existing IT infrastructure platforms should continue, or if there are further opportunities for consolidation here as well.

There is another benefit for the organisation from having this real-world data on application use trends. Depending on the number of licenses that a company has, it can make rationalisation savings on those licenses that are not being used.

More importantly, this information is necessary for data centre managers in order to make their decisions, or they won't be able to formulate the right strategy for the future.

Rob Greenslade is the sales and marketing director at desktop and applications VAR Centralis and a contributor to

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