The current wave of data centre consolidations (DCC) differs from earlier one-off initiatives to merge the machinery of government or a technology mash-up following a corporate takeover. It is now often driven by national strategy and occasionally enforced by legislation.
Federated countries such as Australia are increasingly pushing towards national education, health and jurisdictional structures. Data centre consolidation is an important ingredient if government wishes to impose a federal service across what is a now a state jurisdiction.
The choices facing government or private enterprise in data centre consolidation are not simply do or don’t. The continuum of consolidation choices ranges from a basic centralized data storage through to the consolidation and merger of data, applications, infrastructure and technology teams in response to business transformation changes in agencies or corporations. Occasionally data centre consolidation mandates extend to shared services, including collaboration and office productivity services.
Data centre consolidation will be hard to avoid. Projects tend to be large-scale in terms of capital and organisational transformation, as well as promised benefits. A range of skills are needed for example; financial, environmental, engineering, project, behavioural, process and technology skills. Mistakes will be public and it will not be possible to sweep ill-formed decisions under the carpet.
The across-the-board nature of coming data centre consolidations also demands that critical attention is given to the interdependencies that exist between organisations, processes, people and technology. It is much more than shifting boxes and it cannot be left to technologists alone.
Some may wonder if the trend will continue. The current state of the economy is making change essential. Peter Gershon raised the vision of massive savings. Governments both state and federal are enthused by success stories from overseas, both in the public and private sectors. Resistance from IT workers and Agency Heads may see governments follow the initiative of some US states that legislated to support the initiatives.
The consolidation will happen and the concerns for executives in both government and private enterprise must now concentrate on their roles in planning, designing, implementing and operating data centres.
Some questions that may be asked are: What are the likely issues and likely obstacles? What are the economics? How do we ensure acceptable performance? What mistakes have others made? How do we avoid risk and what levers increase the likelihood of success?
Last but not least how do we safely orchestrate the business, organisation, people, process and technology changes given the interdependencies between these things?
Those charged with these huge responsibilities can learn from problems that plagued large ERP implementations and company mergers. Recognise the interdependencies of people, process and technology, and increase the likelihood of success. Make the change essential, make the organisation ready, make the change happen, and make sure it sticks! And make sure the change strategy is based on knowledge and not gut feel!