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Data Center Consolidations Support Simplified Monitoring

Level 11

Data center consolidations have been a priority for years, with the objectives of combatting server sprawl, centralizing and standardizing storage, and streamlining application management and establishing shared services across multiple agencies.

But, consolidation has created challenges for federal IT professionals, including:

  • Managing the consolidation without an increase in IT staff
  • Adapting to new best practices like shared services and cloud computing
  • Shifting focus to optimizing IT through more efficient computing platforms

Whether agencies have finished their consolidation or not, federal IT pros have definitely felt the impact of the change. But how do the remaining administrators manage the growing infrastructure and issues while meeting SLAs?

One way data center administrators can stay on top of all the change is to modernize their monitoring system, with the objective of improved visibility, and troubleshooting.

The Value of Implementing Holistic Monitoring

A holistic approach to monitoring provides visibility into how each individual component is running and impacting the environment as a whole. It can bridge the gap that exists between the IT team and the program groups through connected visibility.

Responsibility

Who is responsible for what? Shared services can be hard to navigate.

Even though the data center team now owns the infrastructure and application operations, the application owners still need to ensure application performance. Both teams require visibility into performance with a single point of truth, which streamlines communication and eases the transition to shared services.

Application Performance

Application performance is critical to executing agency missions, so when users provide feedback that an application is slow, it is up to data center administrators to find the problem and fix it—or escalate it—quickly.

Individually checking each component of the IT infrastructure—the application, servers, storage, database or a virtualized environment—can be tedious, time consuming and difficult. End-to-end visibility into how each component is performing, allows for quick identification and remediation of the issues.

Virtualization

Virtualization can introduce complexities and management challenges. In a virtual environment, virtual machines can be cloned and moved around so easily and often that the impact on the entire environment can be missed, especially in a dynamically changing infrastructure.

Consolidated monitoring and comprehensive awareness of the end-to-end virtual environment is the answer to effective change management in the virtualized environment.

Efficiency

Efficiency was a key driver behind consolidations, but this can seem near impossible for the remaining data centers. But with integrated monitoring that provides end-to-end visibility, data center administrators can troubleshoot issues in seconds instead of hours or days and proactively manage their IT. With the right tools, administrators can provide end-users with high service levels.

Consolidation is part of the new reality for data center administrators. Holistic, integrated monitoring and management of the dynamically changing IT environment will help to refine the new responsibilities of being a shared service, ensure mission-critical applications are optimized and improve visibility into virtualized environments.

Find the full article on Signal.

8 Comments
MVP
MVP

Interesting take on this....

While most shops have monitoring implemented, not all shops are fully integrated or have "bought-in" on the practice.

Many shops are plagued by the "I don't want you watching my stuff because I don't want my groups issues to be known" mentality. 

There you will find sabotage to the monitorings teams ability to do work until there is a strong mandate from the top down to do the right thing.

It is a long road to get past that...  I say that because many of the federal shops are even further segregated and siloed due to the nature of what they support.

Consolidation takes many of the issues previously mentioned and increases the impact due to lack of cooperation.

To be successful at consolidation you must have buy-in from all and the ability of the monitoring team to specify certain criteria for the events being pushed up to them so that you can scale effectively.

If you don't, then you end up with too many one-offs that require too much attention to maintain.

Effective consolidation will likely occur in mature shop where the parts and pieces are in place and you are at the point of management by exception.

I agree with Jfrazier​ on all his points.  I'll go a step further and add that my organization consolidated six data centers down to two, and reduced staff from 24 people covering shifts 7x24, to 2 people on-site 8x5.  Some of that reduction comes from efficiencies due to many servers being virtualized and consolidated into Cisco UCS chassis, as opposed to physical stand-alone servers.  Some of the reduction also comes from contracted services by the new data center company who hosts our hardware in the new locations.

But they don't do app or performance monitoring--only power and environment and security.

We still have yet to adopt the philosophy of greater benefits coming from a unified monitoring solution that can provide a single pane of glass.  The silo walls remain too strong for me to break down, despite my efforts.  But I continue to fight the good fight.

Level 14

Defining responsibilities can be a real challenge.  The roles of network/Windows/Linux shops get modified in the virtual environment.  Understanding how these conventional shops get merged is critical.  So is learning to work together and cross training each other.

I feel like I responded to this blog already. Is it me of have there been a flurry of articles related to datacenters the past couple of days? Anyway...

As one who is responsible for monitoring and not responsible for infrastructure or datacenter I am a huge fan of consolidation and reducing the footprint. The less moving parts to monitor the better. The same applies for Root Cause Analysis.

I'm with you on this topic, Peter.  Less is better, from so many points of view.

We had one legacy data center that could not accept more physical hardware due to power limitations.  Our large UPS's weren't big enough for the additional load, and the local electric utility could not bring in the additional power we needed if we could replace the UPS's with larger ones.  That was a big surprise--who ever heard of an electric company that couldn't bring you more power?

A slightly new data center couldn't accept more physical servers due to load/weight limitations on the floor.  That sounded particularly scary.

In both cases we were able to continue growing our services by virtualizing servers, which resulted in lower electric and cooling costs, along with decreased footprint and physical server weight as the old servers were retired.

Eventually we built two brand new data centers and moved our gear to them.  Power and weight are no longer a concern.

But virtualization still helps us out by giving us a way to grow while reducing power demand and weight.

Level 10

Great share! Totally agree in consolidation..most of the time, a completely sprawled out data center can easily up fill up your tank so you can drive your self insane when complex issues arise; the lesser the moving parts the better;

Level 8

Consolidating data centers can be a double-edged sword in the sense that the data centers that remain will be required to significantly upgrade their infrastructure to absorb the functions of the ones being closed down.

Whether it be power, additional WAN circuits, physical space or additional staff, the cost-benefit analysis would have to be run to ensure the cost savings realized from shutting down a data center is greater than the cost of upgrading infrastructure to absorb the functions of the one being closed down.

However, the advantage in consolidation can be maximized if the functions being absorbed can be supported by sharing or leveraging existing infrastructure where possible without spending additional resources to upgrade. For example, the existing data center staff might be able to absorb, manage and maintain the new functions without requiring the need for more staff which translates into a cost savings for the project.  

Level 20

Funny how things got all distributed for years and now is coming back into giant data center again.