Transforming to a Lean Data Center

By Prabhaker Yasa, Vice President, IT, JDA Software

JDA Software Group, Inc, is a provider of seamless supply chain planning and execution solutions for retailers, manufacturers, logistics providers and wholesale distributors

Data centers are the backbone of any organization’s IT infrastructure. Managing data centers, the peripheral environments and resources  are a part of the entire data center management activity. The associated costs typically account for a large part of an organization’s IT, related spend.

Over time, data centers develop efficiency issues like poor hardware resource utilization, wasted energy and obsolescence of equipment. By transforming into Lean Data Centers, organizations can gain efficiencies through lower capital and operating costs.

Lean Data Center transformation involves understanding the drivers, methods and tools that optimize the footprint of data centers while reducing engineering complexity and the associated support required. ‘Lean’, as a philosophy,

focuses on distinguishing between value added and non-value added activities with the aim of eliminating waste. Waste can be in the form of defects, overproduction, wasteful transportation, waiting time, excess inventory, unnecessary movements and over-processing.

Adopting a lean philosophy for data centers can result in reduced physical inventory, streamlined processes, improved technology land scape, better space utilization and reduced power consumption, translating to lower capital and operational costs to the business.

During JDA’s lean data center transformation, the technology teams adopted the lean six sigma framework and tools to derive. The need to consolidate physical and virtual servers was based on the server-to-employee ratio. Sponsorship was obtained through cost-benefit analysis of the potential savings from lean initiatives against the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of our data centers.

"Consolidating legacy servers has the added advantage of lowering maintenance costs while also providing an opportunity to bring in higher end configurations"

A portfolio of lean initiatives of  varying magnitude of scale was put in place to achieve the desired benefits. This helped identify focus areas for lean and continuous improvements, in a structured manner. This also addressed the necessary objectives, resources and risks that would come as part of the transformation. All sub-teams committed the necessary resources to the program and trained on lean philosophy and tools, to gain momentum.

An integrated change management plan was developed to ensure that all stakeholders have a buy-in as well as visibility on the various objectives set including any posttransition issues like service response, case resolution and uptime SLA adherence.

Consolidating legacy servers has the added advantage of lowering maintenance costs while also providing an opportunity to bring in higher end configurations. This also helps deal with vendor issues like end-of life support, security and break-fix patches.

Extensive data was gathered on server hardware utilization and software usage over a period of time. Pareto analysis, Kanban and visual management techniques helped identify focus areas. Identifying and categorizing the “vital few” versus “useful many”, ensured clear prioritization of the workloads based on actual usage of the physical and virtual servers. Only 20% of the servers were of the ‘vital few’ category and were being used for critical workloads, providing a huge opportunity for consolidation of the rest. Using partitioned and virtual server environments we could simultaneously reuse unused capacity and processing power, thereby eliminating proliferation.

As the organization was increasingly moving towards cloud based services, identifying the non-critical workloads became pertinent. This required that workloads were already streamlined and optimized prior to the move. Our co-located data center optimization exercise ensured that we could achieve a good balance between our physical and cloud footprint.

Once the infrastructure was consolidated, the focus for optimization shifted to operational processes. Value stream maps (VSM) was created to document the current state, non-value adding activities, value adding activities and resulting waste in the processes. The desired future state was then arrived at with active involvement of the business users.

Bottlenecks and pain points were identified, providing a clear visibility of the series of activities that deliver services from the IT Service Catalog to the business users. (VSM) were created for the server resource provisioning process and self-provisioning was identified as a key step for process simplification. Delays due to case hand-offs and unwarranted approvals were reviewed and targeted for reduction.

As a final step, FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) was performed to identify potential single point of failures like backup, fail over, HA (high-availability) and other risks. This ensured that there was no degradation of service uptimes, resilience or service levels for the business units.

Results

As an outcome of the program, the server-to-employee ratio was reduced from 2.5:1 to 1:1. This also helped setup a technology framework for further optimization in the future. Many terabytes of SAN storage, thousands of processors and terabytes of memory were released. Our lean data centers now provide us with higher utilization, improved compliance, streamlined provisioning process and lower optimal operating costs.

Don't Miss ( 1-5 of 20 )