Data centers are a crucial component of modern IT infrastructures. Whether companies maintain their own facilities, colocate with a third-party data center, or use a public cloud provider for their data needs, virtually every business relies upon data centers to provide the foundation of today’s increasingly interconnected global economy. And with more and more data being generated and consumed each year, data centers aren’t going anywhere soon.
It may seem odd, then, that one of the biggest developments in the data center industry over the last decade has been the trend toward consolidation. Much of this trend is driven by technological change. Server virtualization and innovations in storage technology have made it possible to do more with less, rendering many facilities all but obsolete. As organizations reconsider their data needs, they’ve made efforts to reduce their environmental and infrastructure footprints through consolidation even as they greatly expand their ability to handle data and deliver services.
Much of the data center consolidation that’s taken place over the last decade was driven by efforts to save costs. Operating a data center is expensive, but modernizing an outdated facility with the very latest in power and cooling capabilities can incur even higher costs. When the federal government announced plans to close hundreds of data centers in 2010, the consolidation movement was already well underway in the private sector. The government plans to shut down over 5,000 data centers by the end of 2019, and the consolidation effort has already saved as much as $2.8 billion in operating costs between 2011 and 2015 alone.
Server virtualization and higher data center power density deployments have made it easier than ever to consolidate data operations into fewer facilities. That means less physical infrastructure to maintain, even when the data center consolidation movement has led to the construction of massive hyperscale data centers. While these behemoths are expensive to build and maintain, they are also extremely efficient and designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
The security benefits to data center consolidation are twofold. On the one hand, reducing the number of data centers also reduces the number of access points in a network. Considering that a sizable percentage of service outages can be traced back to human error, having fewer places where critical systems are exposed to regular human contact reduces the risk of an outage. With fewer data centers spread across a large area, there’s also less chance of natural disasters causing damage to local facility.
On the other hand, many of the data centers targeted for consolidation are older facilities with legacy infrastructure and outdated security systems. This made them an ideal target for cyberattacks. Data center consolidation eliminates these potential attack vectors, making networks less vulnerable. With fewer physical facilities, it’s easier to ensure that their data center security protocols are up to date and that they’re replacing legacy equipment more promptly.
In today’s global economy, even smaller organizations are doing business all over the world. Managing data and IT resources scattered across multiple systems and storage facilities, however, is no easy task. By locating their critical assets in a few centralized, easily accessed locations through an effective data consolidation strategy, companies can gain much more direct control over their operations and reduce uncertainty. For industries with strict compliance regulations, maintaining direct control over data is essential, and consolidating that data into secure locations where it can be easily monitored and audited helps to provide that control.
Data center consolidation also makes it easier to establish uniform practices surrounding the handling of data and applications. Outdated legacy systems can make it difficult to fully integrate a company’s IT network into a single, cohesive environment. Simply doing away with these older systems allows companies to design purpose built solutions that address their specific needs. The time they no longer dedicated to creating workarounds and linkages to connect sprawling infrastructure can instead be spent on developing more secure, better performing networks in a more consolidated environment.
Speed and adaptability are increasingly the most important qualities of any successful business. With data and applications scattered across facilities with outdated infrastructure, many organizations face significant productivity hurdles and have a hard time reacting quickly to capitalize on opportunities. The greater control that comes from data center consolidation makes it easier to make quick decisions and implement solutions.
Consolidating into a multi-tenant environment also offers tremendous flexibility in terms of connectivity and service provider options. These centralized marketplaces help to drive down costs, allowing companies to choose the best vendors and providers for their specific needs. With so many options and access to customers readily available, making quick changes is easier than ever before. With an effective data consolidation strategy, companies are no longer forced to make decisions based on the limitations of their own infrastructure, allowing them to instead do what’s best for their future success.The overall trend of data center consolidation appears set to continue in the coming years. Even if an organization doesn’t have facilities of its own, it should develop a clear data consolidation strategy that allows it to take advantage of the industry’s consolidation trend. Taking steps to reduce their overall IT footprint can put companies on the path to compete more effectively both today and in the future.