Last week Jason Newton at HP blogged about what his company thinks (or at least wants you to think) are the hot trends in the data center for 2009. He provides a good list that’s less a reflection of what enterprise customers are necessarily doing but certainly what they should be thinking. Heck, his list reflects a lot of the tactics we discuss with customers every day in our inquiries and published research, such as in "Retrofitting Your Data Center for Better Capacity".

While you can certainly debate the priority of the items presented, there’s very little here we’d disagree on (not sure DAS is HOT). At the center of all his advice though lies a subtle subtext captured best in his #3 – Knowing is HOT. Guessing is NOT. Newton writes, "Whether you’re talking capacity planning for your apps and virtual machines, the power and breaker size you need per rack or the storage for your data explosion, using the old ‘rules of thumb’ for quarterly budgets aren’t going to cut it in 2009."

Absolutely right, Jason. But the issue is bigger than this. Enterprise IT Ops leaders are often flying blind on the overall cost of running the data center, what their average server utilization rates are, exactly how many servers they have, exactly how much storage they have and what percent of it can be used or shared. These baselines are necessary to truly know what level of positive effect you can have on your bottom line through consolidation, virtualization or any other efficiency improvement effort you plan to undertake. And this information is crucial if you need to deliver a business case to the CFO for investments in these efforts. And with all the consolidating and virtualizing going on today you’d logically conclude that, of course, knowing is hot. Everybody must be doing it.

Boy how we wish that were true. Unfortunately our data shows time and time again that most IT Ops leaders have a very limited understanding of their overall costs, let alone a complete asset inventory, utilization analysis or even an inkling of what portion of the power bill their consuming. Which means that most are making the case for their consolidation investments using the old "trust me" methodology. You know, "the old stuff is in efficient. The new stuff is far more efficient. So we can clearly save some money by moving to the new stuff."

Now I know that none of you are portraying your consolidation justifications this crudely, but without a baseline cost to work from, unfortunately a lot of the reasoning comes down to something like this. Vendors count on you taking this approach so you will use their ROI models, case studies and testimonials as your justifications. VMware likes to say that the average customers achieves 10:1 consolidations and has case studies showing millions of dollars saved. That’s great. But will you really see those same results in your environment?

Don’t take their word for it. Do the homework so you know exactly where your costs break down and which have the most acute inefficiencies. The best IT consultancies can conduct this analysis for you if you are slammed feeding the MOOSE. And a raft of good asset inventory and capacity analysis tools are out there that can not only help identify the baselines but serve as scorekeeper throughout the efficiency game.

Make Knowing HOT in your company so they savings you are chasing become a reality and IT becomes a real efficiency hero this recession, rather than a speculative one. 

Want help in making this happen? Come to our next IT Consolidation workshop, March 17th in San Diego, the day before our first Infrastructure & Operations Forum

By James Staten

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