How to consolidate federal data centers

Monday - 10/18/2010, 9:41am EDT

Richard Fishera, vice president and principal analyst, Forrester Research

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Last week, we reported that federal agencies had completed inventories of their data centers, and sent them to OMB. The inventory was a prelude to an effort to reduce the number of federal data centers by using consolidation. But how exactly does that happen?

Richard Fishera, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research joined Tom Temin and Amy Morris on The Federal Drive to talk about who in your agency needs to be concerned about the reduction.

Fishera explained some of the reasons why you would want to consolidate data centers.

"Assuming you know what's in your data center, which is not always a given, the next thing you look at is: what are the critical bottlenecks you face?" Fishera said. "You're generally doing this for some reason involving cost, operational efficiency or constraints such as power or real estate and in general one of the primary driving pressures in the commercial sectors is the desire to continue to extend the life of a given data center facility so they don't have to go out and build a new data center, which at a cost of $20,000 to $30,000 per kilowatt is a very expensive proposition."

Fishera said when an agency wants to consolidate the data center they must first determine what the goal is at the end of the project.

"Once you establish (your goal), and let's assume for the moment one of your primary drivers is mirroring the commercial space, you want to reduce the operational cost of the data center," Fishera said.

One of the ways Fishera suggests completing a consolidation is through virtualization.

Virtualization allows the use of multiple database management systems simultaneously regardless of their physical locations.

"It's highly likely that a lot of these non-consolidated environments are already well on the way to virtualizing their environment. Just virtualizing the workload at a conservative level can reduce the number of physical servers by two to four, and that's being pretty conservative.'

"Most of these servers are very poorly utilized and they will have utilization down to the low single digits so it's very easy to stack multiple workloads on a single server."

With the cost of maintaining a data center being so high, Fishera said you need to make sure to make the most out of the data center you have.

"You particularly want to extend the life of that facility by approving the amount of work you can get out of that current footprint, that current power and real estate footprint."