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Cloud Diaries: Turning 13 Datacenters into 6? How vFabric Application Director Helps

Data center consolidation.

Those three words often mean a lot of things – a lot of work, a lot of change, a lot of cost savings, a lot of leadership, and a lot of coordination.  Of course, the payoff of doing it right can also be outstanding.

We had the opportunity to gain personal, anonymous observations from a senior technical architect of a European consulting firm who knows firsthand that data center consolidation can create value, citing “moving thirteen datacenters run by thirteen teams to six data centers run by one team is the catalyst for huge improvements in many areas.” Our architect’s company provides recommendations, architecture, installation, customized solutions, and operations services for IT.  In their conversation with VMware, we found that deployment automation is a critical requirement to many of their client’s consolidation plans, and they pointed out how vFabric Application Director is fundamental to the approach.

Before we share their observations, there are a couple of general business and IT drivers worth noting as a background.

Data Center Consolidation Drivers

Back in 2008, the Uptime Institute (a data center research, education, and consulting organization focused on improving data center performance and efficiency) worked with McKinsey & Company to present “Revolutionizing Data Center Efficiency.” The report received a fair amount of popularity as well as criticism.  In McKinsey’s executive summary, they highlighted the primary drivers of poor data center efficiency:

  • Poor demand and capacity planning within and across functions (business, IT, facilities)
  • Significant failings in asset management (6% average server utilization, 56% facility utilization)
  • Boards, CEOs, and CFOs are not holding CIOs accountable for critical data center facilities CapEx and data center operational efficiency

Since then, the industry has certainly worked towards improvements, but the recent N.Y. Times article titled, “The Cloud Factories: Power, Pollution, and the Internet,” put attention on the subject again, warranting both support and critique.  The Uptime Institute responded to the N.Y. Times in a blog dated 09-25-2012 and titled, “Important to recognize the dramatic improvement in data center efficiency.” In it, they promoted IT’s progress, made some extremely relevant assertions, and provided a current viewpoint, 4 years later, of where IT might focus to improve and drive data center efficiency:

“IT organizations that will benefit most are those that take a systematic approach, starting at the application and data layers: consolidating applications and servers, de-duplicating data, removing comatose but power-draining servers, building redundancy into the applications and IT architecture rather than physical systems, improving server utilization; these initiatives will result in the most significant efficiency gains and drive the next wave of energy-efficiency innovation.”

The High-Level Solution Drivers

The research-based viewpoint provides a reasonable picture of the types of goals driving data center consolidation and a backdrop for what our senior technical architect shared:

  • The client/company was looking to increase the agility of response for the business, reduce costs, increase uptime, and improve disaster recovery as part of a cloud data center initiative.
  • They needed an ability to quickly stand-up new VMs, follow consistent processes, and properly load/deploy applications. In fact, “automation of day-to-day operational tasks” became a critical, driving requirement because of the complexity in their existing deployment process.
  • In looking at many automation solutions from large, traditional software companies, they realized that most tools were too complicated to use, install, and configure. Importantly, these tools didn’t deal with virtualization well. This lead to the following top-level selection criteria:
    • Straight forward installation and configuration
    • Simple to use and manage
    • Application independence
    • Update capability for patches
    • Work with different PaaS and IaaS providers
    • Auto-scaling (adding and removing capacity)
    • Template-based automation

In VMware’s viewpoint, business units often drive IT spending decisions, and businesses want their applications to deploy 1) faster and 2) more often in and 3) environment with the least cost. In the case of data center consolidation, a business case with a) line of business benefits (like more frequent deployments with fewer errors) AND b) IT cost savings will win out over a case on IT cost savings alone.  In addition, the Uptime Institute noted, “today, according to the 2012 survey data, only 20% of organizations’ IT departments pay the data center power bill.” If IT isn’t paying the power bill, then business units are (directly or indirectly), and, given this fact, the energy savings from data center consolidation is a great opportunity to reduce business costs significantly.

How vFabric Application Director Fits

Our architect’s consulting company and their client chose vFabric Application Director to gain the following benefits:

  • Straight forward installation and configuration
  • Simple to use and manage
  • Application independence
  • Update capability for patches
  • Work with different PaaS and IaaS providers
  • Auto-scaling for adding and removing capacity
  • Template-based automation
  • Work well in a virtualized environment across a variety of applications, architectures, and infrastructures

They see how this type of automation provides a greater benefit than manually scripted deployment solutions that are error prone and don’t scale.  To quote our architect:

    • “The traditional enterprise automation solutions just don’t work well with virtualization and the cloud. They are mired in the operating models of the past.”
    • “The vFabric Application Management Suite makes everything easier for our clients to manage their virtual and cloud environments.”
>> Read more about our Cloud Management Diaries, visit vFabric Application Director for more information on the product, or read a case study of how VMware’s IT department is reducing provisioning time by 90% with vFabric Application Director.
About the Author: Stacey Schneider has over 15 years of working with technology, with a focus on working with sales and marketing automation as well as internationalization. Schneider has held roles in services, engineering, products and was the former head of marketing and community for Hyperic before it was acquired by SpringSource and VMware. She is now working as a product marketing manager across the vFabric products at VMware, including  supporting Hyperic. Prior to Hyperic, Schneider held various positions at CRM software pioneer Siebel Systems, including Group Director of Technology Product Marketing, a role for which her contributions awarded her a patent. Schneider received her BS in Economics with a focus in International Business from the Pennsylvania State University.

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