Vertical Consolidation Considerations

Vertical server consolidation can be difficult, but it's probably the most efficient way of reining in multiple and far-flung servers.

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Vertical server consolidation can be difficult, but its probably the most efficient way of reining in multiple and far-flung servers.

A select few organizations 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.

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

But Sun Microsystems Inc. and EMC Corp. are betting that IT managers will use their high-end Sun Fire and Symmetrix DMX servers, respectively, to accomplish vertical consolidation of 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 those applications 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.

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 task of consolidation could be very difficult. If your company has a lot of different operating systems and applications, for example, finding the appropriate server hardware to take on the load, then migrating all these applications onto that platform, will be a big challenge.

When consolidating multiple servers, the devil can be in the details. Think of it from a logistical point of view: How will downtime be scheduled? What will you do with all those smaller servers? What remote sites will need to be shut down after data is geographically consolidated?

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 will outweigh the acquisition and implementation costs of consolidation.