TRW Automotive, a Tier One global supplier of auto safety products, had a big control problem. “We had always operated as a dozen or so largely independent business units, each with its own systems,” says Joe Drouin, vice president and CIO. “As a result, we had dozens of mission-critical applications, including multiple flavors of SAP, running in dozens of different places.”
Compliance and disaster recovery were particularly challenging, Drouin recalls. “In our first year of Sarbanes-Oxley, far too much time was spent on internal and external audits of every server and application that was anywhere. We also had one of those classic disaster-recovery plans that was really just a plan, and gosh help us if we ever had to implement it.”
The solution: a major consolidation effort. TRW Automotive went from dozens of distributed datacenters to four. And centralized Dell/EMC SAN storage made a viable disaster-recovery strategy much more practical and affordable, while helping the company meet its compliance responsibilities.
Consolidation efforts such as TRW’s reflect the imperative that has ruled IT for the past five years: Do more with less. On the ground, that means centralizing and rationalizing datacenters, servers, applications, management tools, and network infrastructure -- the result of mergers, acquisitions, and unconstrained technology growth -- into fewer, standardized, more manageable datacenters and platforms.
Consolidation recently has been given an extra boost, thanks to new technologies such as virtualization and 64-bit, multicore-core hardware that packs more punch into a smaller footprint. At the same time, expectations have risen sharply.
Reducing Costs, Raising the Bar
Five years ago, the main motivation for consolidation was cost reduction. “After the Internet bubble burst, lots of companies looked for ways to cut 30 percent or more from their IT budgets,” says Steve Fink, who runs HP’s IT consolidation group. “Many succeeded through consolidation. Today, however, it’s all about synchronizing business and technology to be more responsive to the customer than your competitors.”
Consolidation can be an effective way to gain that agility. “Companies have found that consolidation strategies such as [server and storage] virtualization not only allow them to do more with the resources they have, but to be more flexible, agile, responsive, and available as well,” says Michelle Bailey, vice president at IDC. For example, using server and storage virtualization, provisioning can be completed in a fraction of the time.
But agility and efficiency aren’t the only motivators. For First American, a leading financial information provider, high availability was key. “As the company became a major information provider, we knew we had to provide super reliability in a very modern datacenter,” says First American CTO Evan Jafa. First American has so far consolidated 25 locations to two datacenters, which it built from scratch to provide high-density power and cooling.
The company is not alone. “With the rise of high-density equipment such as server blades, half the datacenters out there are on the way to becoming functionally obsolete within two to three years,” says Michael Bell, research vice president at Gartner.