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Retiring IT assets to avoid maintenance penalties

Ashish Nadkarni, Contributor, SearchCIO.com

In this advice series, we'll feature case studies from consultants who have worked with clients to overcome specific IT challenges. How did they help solve problems? What questions did they need the client to answer about their IT infrastructure? What advice did they offer?

In this installment, learn how data center consulting and managed services firm

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GlassHouse Technologies Inc. worked with a client that needed to consolidate IT assets to avoid maintenance costs and penalties. Here, Ashish Nadkarni, GlassHouse Technologies' practice lead for data mobility, explains the consolidation process:

Problem: GlassHouse was approached by a partner representing a large retail chain that needed to consolidate IT assets to avoid maintenance costs and penalties. The environment was characterized by outdated equipment, including servers, storage and applications. The partner was unable to persuade its IT operations customer to migrate this in a timely fashion and needed an outside company to solve this problem. The issue in technical terms was very simple: Seven storage arrays from EMC Corp. and Hitachi needed to be retired after the data on them was migrated to an IBM SAN Volume Controller environment. The servers hosting the data were a combination of IBM AIX, Sun Solaris, VMware ESX and Linux. The problem in business terms was relatively complex: how to ensure that business was not disrupted while the assets were upgraded, migrated or retired, and how to make certain the assets were within budget. GlassHouse also sought to avoid monetary penalties.

Solution: Our goal was to solve the customer's most important objective: to retire older IT assets (storage frames) in a given time frame so the company could avoid the significant costs related to maintenance penalties.

Our goal was to retire older IT assets (storage frames) in a given time frame so our customer could avoid the significant costs related to maintenance penalties.
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 GlassHouse used a "divide and conquer" approach for this problem. Our domain experts started examining the environment to determine the toolsets and technical approach best suited for the problem. At the same time, our project and program management experts started interviewing the business and application owners in order to work up a plan that would best suit their schedule. Simultaneously, GlassHouse worked to extract economies of scale by performing data migrations in large batches to avoid multiple outages. Data was migrated from legacy EMC and Hitachi arrays onto newer IBM arrays.

At the same time, the domain experts interfaced with the partner's IT outsourcing project teams to examine some of the ways to perform currency projects (projects undertaken to ensure that all hardware and software is current-state and in line with that vendor's best practices recommendations) concurrently during the migration. Servers routinely need to be patched or upgraded as part of a migration from one vendor frame to another to ensure interoperability. This can take a toll on the customer's application testing and compatibility efforts. Nevertheless, it is a critical task as it can render the environment unsupported should the currency step be skipped. Having been through these efforts several times previously, our domain experts have a set of checkpoints that can fast track these efforts and allow them to be performed ahead of time in a sandbox environment while ensuring that this does not pose a delay in the schedule. An example of some of these checkpoints is version compatibility and interoperability of the "I/O stack," i.e., hardware, drivers, firmware, operating system patches, etc.

GlassHouse expects to finish all aspects of the project by the deadline in 2010, avoiding potentially significant monetary penalties. In addition, the project will provide the customer with $2.2 million in annual maintenance cost savings when complete. These savings will mostly come from not renewing expensive maintenance contracts for out-of-support IT assets.

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