The multi-pronged security implications and rising maintenance costs associated with the sprawl of data centers and IT infrastructure is spurring a reverse trend in the market. Facing tight budgets and thinly spread IT resources, more organizations are moving towards data center consolidation.

The changing climate, aimed at shrinking the infrastructure, is creating smarter, more cost and energy efficient system architectures. As a result, we see a growing number of facility mergers, colocation options, and virtualization services becoming available for organizations.

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The data center consolidation trend is sure to have an impact on the IT market in general, including the global scope of the IoT market, and Data Center Infrastructure Management (“DCIM”) in particular. Smarter data centers with extensive monitoring and tight security will replace the physical sprawl with smaller and yet more efficient architecture. Networks stretching far and wide will be consolidated into compact areas, shrinking the footprint and operational costs.

Simplifying infrastructure will make the data centers easier to manage, alleviating the burden placed upon strained IT personnel. But this shift will not come about without challenges. In its early stages, this process will resemble untangling the Gordian knot. Given the complexity of legacy systems, often with one infrastructure leg on site and the other in external network territories, unforeseen consolidation complications are to be expected.

A tighter web

Cost reduction is typically a strong driving force behind deep infrastructure changes. Pulling large amounts of servers into a smaller structure, allows organizations to lower their operational costs and reduce their IT footprint. Having a smaller network and application architecture results in businesses needing less costly hardware, such as servers and routers. They can accomplish this by adding consolidation technologies, such as server and storage virtualization, replacing mainframes with smaller blade systems, implementing cloud computing, and better capacity planning along with tools for process automation.

Reduction in servers often precipitates software standardization, which means fewer critical applications are needed to run the organization. Implementation of cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options help to further slash operating costs. Taking it a step further, less hardware means reduced power consumption, which besides shrinking energy bills, paves the way towards sustainable initiatives.

Once executed and implemented, data center consolidation can help alleviate the deluge of tasks that burden IT and operations personnel. By making it easier and faster to isolate and resolve problems, the demand for extensive communications and management drops, freeing up resources to address other high priority, business-critical issues. Fewer channels to monitor and more streamlined architecture mean optimized data transport, maximized bandwidth utilization, and more transparent traffic patterns. All this translates to higher security, easier disaster recovery and better compliance.

Reducing the size and scope of infrastructure locations and lowering the number of connections between facilities sharpens the focus of a now more elegant IT transport layer. The task of securing such enterprise structure both from the inside and out becomes simpler and less expensive. Having most vital components in one place makes replication much easier, and in the event of a disaster, simplifies failover initiation. Furthermore, process and system automation help keep a system in lockstep with policies, regulations, standards, and quality of service.

The new horizon

Data center consolidation will lead to cost reduction of up to 30%, enhanced security up to 35%, reduction in power consumption by 55%, and improvement in efficiency by 50%, according to the “Global Data Center UPS Market 2017-2021” report. These metrics make it highly probable that many, if not most, organizations will be inclined to engage in some form of consolidation. This is further fueled by the continual improvement of software virtualization and infrastructure capabilities of hosting environments.

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Migration to the cloud, specifically, will continue to be one of the biggest data center industry trends in 2017. More colocation providers focus on adding interconnectivity to expand the public cloud. Pushing project data to the cloud makes now more sense than deploying complex on site configurations or building data centers.

DCIM vendors will keep increasing their tools’ capabilities for data collection and resource planning to provide IT teams with more detailed and accurate insights into their infrastructure. Smarter data centers will include advanced technologies such as augmented reality and will provide the ability to streamline maintenance in remote locations.

Data center security best practices are also becoming a major focus, targeting everything from the facility itself to the chips running the equipment. The growth of the IoT is making these security needs even more critical to make sure a company avoids possible breaches or compliance violations.

Slowing down the move towards consolidation will be issues related to the center’s physical environment. Analyst firm IDC predicted 80% of organizations will experience delays in converged infrastructure deployment due to insufficient planning around power and cooling. This will require data centers of the future to be smarter at tracking energy consumption, which includes identifying draining zombie servers and other equipment and exploring alternative sources of power, such as solar and wind.

Ultimately, data center consolidation has been shown to reduce costs, increase the business value of IT, and establish a more manageable footprint. Consolidation offers the option to deploy more advanced protocols and management strategies and grow the network’s performance, without straining the network and its applications. In the end, having less to deal with should and will be easier to maintain. That’s once organizations overcome the challenge of their stretched-too-thin IT teams and tight budgets to successfully tackle the transition.

The author is the founder and CEO of Atlantic.Net, a Managed Cloud Hosting company focused on providing valuable hosting solutions for businesses and healthcare providers, backed by world-class support.