10 Forces Driving Your Potentially Agile Data Center

by Kenneth Hess

There are 10 forces driving you toward a more agile data center. May the forces be with you.

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If your data center costs are out of control, it's time to consider moving to an agile data center. Agile is a buzzword that's tossed around a bit too much these days, but learning what it really means will translate into significantly higher profits for your data center's shareholders. An agile data center uses efficient hardware, better design, fewer employees and better tools. It also has less wasted space. You might think that the only driving force behind moving to an agile data center is the need to save money. It's a good reason, but it isn't the only one. There are 10 driving forces behind the move to agility in the data center. Are you there yet?

1. Virtualization Technology

Virtualization has changed the face of data centers globally. Server virtualization allows companies to better leverage expensive hardware, costly service contracts and minimize the number of physical trips to the data center. The technology also gives businesses the ability to respond rapidly to changing business conditions. Virtualization fully enables the agile data center by removing the need to have physical access to the data center for server provisioning.

2. Cloud Computing

The true beauty of cloud computing is that it's based on agile technology from concept to implementation. Cloud computing's agility originates with its pooled resources and its inherent scalability and moves on to its extreme cost-effectiveness. It decreases the importance of individual pieces of hardware, minimizes any performance impact due to the loss of failed hardware, and is location-independent. Cloud computing makes your business agile by providing 100 percent service availability to employees and customers.

3. Better Tools

Data center management tools developers have made significant advances in automation, granular management, system provisioning, life cycle management and monitoring that your data center can now operate more efficiently and with fewer full-time employees. With the exception of a few onsite visits, your daily data center operations personnel can work from remote locations. Better tools make better use of your remaining employees' time and drives down labor costs. For far less than the cost of one full-time employee, efficient tools enable you to let the software handle the "heavy lifting" once performed by multiple staff members.

4. Cost Savings

Agile technologies and agile practices save money, and an agile data center is more profitable than a non-agile one. What are the hallmarks of a profitable data center? Few onsite employees, efficiently used rack space, the use of best available technologies, power-efficient hardware, long-life technology (e.g., virtualization) and better design (e.g., adequate air flow, efficient cooling and minimal wasted space). Cost savings is the leading driving force behind the move to an agile data center.

5. Changing Needs

Your customers' needs change over time. You must change with them. Customers want 100-percent availability, lower prices and more services. How do you respond to those needs? By changing the way you do business. Those changing customer needs drive your business to agility. You must move toward an agile business model or lose business to those that do. Agility is in vogue and that isn't likely to change in the foreseeable future.

6. Personnel

Your available pool of experienced and seasoned professionals shrinks every year. With the trend toward offshoring, there are fewer local human resources from which to choose. In this situation, you're better off hiring lesser-skilled individuals on a full-time basis but keeping the numbers of a few experts on speed dial in case of an emergency. The salaries that younger employees demand are lower than those with more experience ask for, younger workers tend to be more malleable in terms of changing with the needs of an agile business, and they are easier to replace.

7. Scrum

You can leverage the Scrum concept of agile project management and apply it to managing your data center more efficiently. The concept, based on transparency and communications, assists you in planning and implementing aspects of your business in bite-sized (manageable) bits. Using agile management principles reduces risk, keeps you focused on the goal while providing a lot of feedback, and improves overall control and delivery frequency . If your teams constantly provide feedback to one another, assess potential problems and involve your customers in activities, then your business thrives and you lower your risks and your costs by sheer awareness.

8. Floor Space

The ever-shrinking data center drives the move to agility by forcing data center managers to think creatively about the problem and how to resolve it. You can't add more space. You can't turn away customers. You can manage what you have more efficiently. Change your server-to-rack ratio, change your server technology, move to virtualization or engage the public cloud.

9. Power Consumption

Power bills are a major driving force in searching for newer, more efficient technology and the move to agility in the data center. There's nothing quite like a 20-percent kilowatt-hour rate hike to start your wheels turning on how to decrease your costs. Employee layoffs will not ease that huge power bill you're facing. Better technology and a redesign will help more than a bottle of antacid and head-lopping. Solid state drives, newer low-power servers, LED lights and recycled air are a few ways to keep the lights on for less money.

10. Licensing

How many Oracle licenses are you using right now? You probably know that answer since Oracle helps you keep track of that number. How many Websphere licenses are you using? How many Windows Server 2008 licenses do you have left in your volume license agreement with Microsoft? Now, you're not so sure, are you? Maintaining an accurate license inventory can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in wasted licenses or fines for unlicensed software that's used but unaccounted for in your inventories. Do yourself a favor and Google "software license management software."

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Dec 9th 2010
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