Data center optimization: Overhaul or incremental changes?

Moderated by Bill Detwiler | April 1, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: The opportunities for cost reductions and efficiency improvements are undeniable. But which approach best serves your organization?

David Chernicoff

David Chernicoff




Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes


Audience Favored: Incremental (54%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Business changes fast

David Chernicoff: It’s just too easy to take a piecemeal approach to the upgrade of your datacenters rather than taking big bites out of the problem and moving forward at a faster pace. Business change simply happens too fast for you to lock your company into a glacial upgrade path for your datacenters. As new business model evolve and new technologies appear, that’s the time to consider overhauling your datacenter as a business opportunity.

If your budgets can handle it, taking advantage of technologies such as modular or containerized datacenters means that you can make large scale updates to improve the performance and efficiencies of your datacenter while initially running in parallel with existing legacy systems, retire the legacy equipment as the new systems fully integrate, and take advantage of all the benefits such a major upgrade can bring.

A few large scale upgrades will get you a more efficient and powerful datacenter in time to take advantage of the potential business advantage that technology can bring.


Living in the real world

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: During tough economic times it is natural for organizations to look for ways to reduce costs, and one way to do this is to review existing IT operational procedures in order to identify possible efficiency improvements. But what approach to take?

While some may advocate a comprehensive, holistic approach that optimizes all attributes at once, I believe that a more conservative approach -- where optimizations are handled in a more controlled way -- is far better.

The problem with the holistic approach is not only that it represents considerable disruption -- not to mention possible downtime -- but it is a solution that comes attached to an eye-wateringly large price tag.

In an ideal world, it would be great to be able to throw everything out and starting from scratch, but most of us live in the real world.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • As a techy ... I'd like to take the overhaul approach but...

    It's expensive!

    Expensive! == The CFO won't like it,
    All new stuff == The staff won't like it,
    New usually means unstable == The clients won't like it,
    Unhappy client and staff == The VP won't like it,
    So I don't like it.

    Slow and steady with gradual and targeted improvement is the safer and smarter approach. IME, If you had a roadmap in play and generally have done your job, you will get at the same place Mr. Overhaul will. It just won't hurt or scare everyone nearly as much.

    Only the vendors will like you if you go the overhaul way...
    Reply Vote I'm for Incremental
  • This is another non-sequitur debate

    It is not an either-or situation. Incremental changes can and do take place every day in IT but, every so often, the rat's nest needs to be cleaned out and replaced. The analogy which immediately comes to mind for me is Chicago's O'Hare airport versus Atlanta's Hartsfield airport. They are the two busiest airports in the United States.

    O'Hare is a hodge-podge of wings of gates added over decades. it is a rats nest to negotiate with multiple TSA check-points. Layovers are a nightmare and connections are often missed.

    By comparison, Atlanta's Hartsfield airport is made up of independent terminals (organized by carrier) connected via subway with a unified TSO check-point in a single location and used only by those who are coming form the Atlanta all others have been inside a TSA secured region since they boarded their inbound flight. layovers are well managed and connections are rarely missed.

    For years, we have watched software vendors come and go because they didn't realize until it was too late that it was time to re-write (instead of continuing to "patch") their flagship product.

    Well, it is exactly the same problem in the data center. One needs to plan for periodic facilities upgrades so that the massive funding needs can be available when it is needed.

    Hopefully, each upgrade includes room for expansion. (Don't just build what you need today, build to accommodate what you will need five years hence.)

    Otherwise, your data center will quickly become a rat's nest of cables without any coordination along with overlapping power and cooling systems which will sap away the efficiencies which were originally built into your data center.
    M Wagner
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Overhaul where it makes sense; Incremental where it makes sense.

    There is a time for each and a time for both, depending on the data center and the business. I think this is a forum looking for a debate (in this case) rather than a debate looking for a forum.
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Of Course Incremental - Why Take Chances?

    I'm sure there are big, one-time funding availability situations were overhaul makes sense to some, but for the rest of us that need to preserve and protect important data and data center operations, incremental should be a no brainer. Why "bite the bullet" if it can backfire significantly?
    Reply Vote I'm for Incremental
  • This is funny.

    If your datacenter has any measure of complexity or size, migrations will be phased in conservatively whether you want it that way or not. Especially if you need to complete your migration without negatively impacting your core business. I pity the CIO/CTO who embarks on the rip and replace method for a large infrastructure.
    Reply Vote I'm for Incremental
  • I'm pretty sure it's not the first even split.

    "We've had close votes before, but this was the first time in Great Debate history that the audience was evenly split."

    I'm pretty sure it's not the first even split. It would be a pain to search through all of my talkbacks on the great debates (I'm pretty sure I mentioned it was evenly split) or through all of the previous great debates (the data for the older debates doesn't even seem to be available anymore), but I'm pretty sure it's not the first time we've had an even split.

    I should note that at the time of this writing, the audience seems to have changed towards "incremental." So apparently it's still collecting data.
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • Late votes haven't changed my mind


      You're right. It was a pain to go back and search through all the Great Debates that allowed audience votes. But I did, and I didn't find a single one with a 50/50 spilt. When I submitted my conclusion at 11:30 EST, the vote was still 50% Overhaul and 50% Incremental. In fact, the percentages hadn't moved since yesterday afternoon.

      Despite the "incremental" side taking the lead after a few late votes (not sure why the system allowed this), my mind remains unchanged. As Adrian noted, if your datacenter looks likely something from the Flintstones' era, it's time for an overhaul. On the flip side, I don't know any company that rips out its datacenter and starts over from scratch every year.
      Bill Detwiler
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Not meaning to change your mind

        Not meaning to change your mind :). After all, I wasn't really in the debate and never cast a vote (not a datacenter guy). Just an observation.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided