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There are two major elements to consider when consolidating data centers after an acquisition: integrating hardware/software portfolios and processes, if desired, consolidating physical IT resources into fewer data centers.
Integrating a hardware/ software portfolio
In days gone by, consolidating data centers after the business acquired another company or division posed exceptional challenges. Two separate companies likely had different processes, applications, databases, systems, storage and network devices. But, with the tremendous amount of standardization seen over the last decade -- particularly in business applications, process flows and databases and cloud architecture's maturation -- consolidating data centers is now a lot more straightforward.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a major market shift toward e-business -- the adoption of standard applications and processes to perform enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management activities. Although there are still hundreds of vendors that supply these types of products, the market has consolidated considerably around business application offerings from Oracle and SAP. Chances are pretty good that if an enterprise acquires a competitor in the same industry, the competitor runs the same packaged applications as the acquirer.
There are hundreds of database suppliers -- and dozens of database types including SQL, NoSQL, Hadoop and more -- but, in these cases, database structures are standardized. And database management tools that combine databases have advanced light-years over the past decade. Blending structured data after an acquisition no longer poses a challenge as much as it used to, especially since Oracle, Microsoft and IBM databases all play pretty well together. As for dealing with unstructured data, numerous tools have come to market over the past three years that analyze unstructured data, which is inherently ready-to-be-read at the time of an acquisition.
The days of proprietary infrastructures have faded. Some old connector and adaptor infrastructure middleware products are still used within various data centers around the world; however, middleware has largely been standardized around virtualization and provisioning infrastructures from a few vendors as well as more encompassing cloud service architecture. As for networking, in the old days there were SNA, asynch, bisynch, OSI, NetBIOS, and a dozen other network protocols to deal with. Now, data centers have largely standardized on TCP/IP as the primary network standard and TCP/IP-based switches from a limited group of providers. As for storage, this sector has been slow to respond to standardization, but with the advent of software-defined storage, merging the storage of different vendors is greatly simplified.
Still, not all applications are standardized. Many enterprises still run custom applications that also serve process flow needs. During the course of an acquisition, evaluate the custom software portfolios. Can you easily integrate the custom software portfolio of the acquired company with the applications and databases of the acquiring company? If not, is it better than what the acquiring company runs? If so, the acquiring company should consider replacing certain custom components with the acquired company's custom applications. If it is worse, should you replace it with custom software from the acquiring company?
Consolidating physical data centers
About a dozen companies worldwide do a great job consolidating data centers or building new ones. One of these companies, BRUNS-PAK, in Edison, N.J., has been building data centers for over forty years and is familiar with the processes of integrating disparate data centers and building new ones. According to BRUNS-PAK, there are sixteen elements to consider when building-out a data center solution (Figure 1).
There's more to building out a data center than just systems integration. Consider facility design, power consumption, legal considerations, staffing, service-level requirements, location and connection to external cloud suppliers when integrating or building out a data center. IT executives should consider talking with vendors that have data center design experience before going it alone in a data center build-out effort.
One last thing to consider when integrating and consolidating data centers is the potential for security problems. Merging the security operations of two data centers can be tricky -- especially if each data center uses different software and/or processes. Further, the biggest threat in terms of data security comes from within enterprises. Giving new employees, even those hired through acquisition, access to another company's data can be risky. Further, farming out some operations to cloud service providers can also be risky, since CSPs are generally positioned as "not liable" when it comes to security. There are tremendous risks associated with security violations, including jail time for negligence, loss of customer confidence and financial pitfalls. When blending two or more data centers, IT executives need to ensure three things: that the people who have access to enterprise life-blood data are trustworthy, that any service-level agreement that takes place between an enterprise and a CSP carries some provisions for security, and that secure information is not exposed to external sources.
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