Consolidate This

'Big' news from Sun, EMC isn't for everyone

Is bigger still better? If you listen to vendors, the answer is a resounding yes, but bigger boxes means bigger margins for them, so its difficult to take what they say at face value.

This week, the "big" news in the server and storage consolidation markets, respectively, were Suns update of its 106-processor Sun Fire 15K server, and the launch of EMCs Symmetrix DMX series.

A select few of you belong to the "data, all of the time, at any price" category and have the freedom to throw millions of dollars worth of hardware at a problem. For those in the elite upper class of IT, the only possible way to meet performance and availability needs is to make the big investment necessary for acquiring these behemoths.

Fortunately, most of us wont need to have a storage unit with ability to theoretically saturate 64GB-per-second worth of SAN links, and more likely than not, even our biggest app wont need 100 CPUs to take care of the daily workload.

Both Sun and EMC are both banking on IT managers using these flagship systems to do vertical consolidation of their storage and server resources. Through vertical consolidation, IT managers will be able to eliminate most of their small servers and RAID units and put all of those apps and their data on a couple of machines, thus eliminating the painful micromanagement that IT managers have had to deal with as the number of machines in their data centers proliferated to unmanageable levels.

Is vertical consolidation a home run for everyone? Im not so sure about that.

The acquisition costs of big systems will be scary, to say the least, and in tough economic times it will be harder than ever to pry open the company wallet.

Another thing to consider is that depending on the complexity of your environment, the tasks of consolidation could be very difficult. If your company has a lot of different operating systems and applications, for example, the task of finding the appropriate server hardware to take on the load, then migrating all of these applications onto that platform will be very difficult.

At the end of the day, a consolidation success isnt about magically changing 50 servers into one. Its about eliminating IT worker hours, saving real estate, and praying that in the end, the cumulative savings outweighs the acquisition and implementation costs of consolidation.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at