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The Recipe for a Lean and Efficient Data Center

by Georg Fischer and Stefanie Kübler | SAPinsider

April 1, 2012

All companies want to cut operating costs, reduce the communication efforts for the IT staff, and become all-around more agile entities. In this article, you’ll learn how system consolidation and system decommissioning projects can help you reach these goals. You’ll also discover why combining these two projects not only nets the benefits of a lean data center more quickly, it also means huge savings in time and money.
 

Companies are dealing with a paradox. To accommodate an ever-changing marketplace and the business challenges it brings, enterprises must continuously evolve. For instance, globalization and the pressure to be competitive often lead to mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs. However, these kinds of changes, meant to help the company stay competitive, bring with them a challenge that can threaten the company’s ability to innovate: The distributed system landscapes and disparate, redundant systems that often result from these changes increase operating expenses, require huge maintenance efforts, and can cause a major security issue.

Consider a global company with a widely distributed system landscape built around numerous SAP and non-SAP systems. The local IT systems were once able to handle regional demands and disparate legal requirements. However, over time, and after a handful of mergers and acquisitions, the established processes have grown, become extensively complicated and expensive, and lack transparency. Different maintenance models in different regions and a partially outsourced system landscape make it even more difficult to keep control over IT activities. In addition, the company maintains various legacy environments, afraid to decommission them in case they contain data needed for an audit.

Project managers cooking up plans to improve the data center have a lot in common with a chef managing a high-class kitchen. For both, preparation and efficiency are critical. And, like a chef, a project manager must be mindful of his ingredients — in this case, the data and systems with which he works. Just as a chef wants to be sure to use the freshest ingredients, a project manager should ensure that his data and systems haven’t gone past their expiration dates.

The Benefits of Combining System Decommissioning and Consolidation Projects

To overcome these problems and become more flexible, efficient, and cost effective, our example company needs to significantly reduce its number of systems and centralize its IT support, consolidating the systems it does use and decommissioning the ones it no longer needs. By bundling data center resources into one location and decommissioning older or redundant systems, a company can cut operating costs, reduce the communication efforts for the IT staff, and become an all-around more agile entity. System administration will become significantly easier because there will be only a single, centralized system landscape to support.

Better still, combining these two projects not only nets the benefits of a lean data center more quickly, it also means huge savings in time and money (see Figure 1). Unfortunately, too many companies perform these projects separately, simply because they don’t realize the time, money, and manpower they would save by combining the two initiatives. Since both system consolidation and decommissioning projects involve many of the same steps, and even the same resources, companies should consider performing both at once, rather than waiting years between the projects.

Figure 1
System consolidation and decommissioning projects — both of which share many of the same steps — can save time and effort when combined

System Consolidation

Establishing a consolidated, central system landscape with standardized processes, add-ons, programs, and business data can reduce system complexity, giving companies better control over holistic business strategies. In addition, this consolidation can significantly reduce overall maintenance and administrative costs and efforts. Such a project involves:

  1. Project management and resource planning. Typically, the first step is to set up a project team. Resources — which usually include IT and business members — are identified according to predefined project roles.
  2. System analysis. To fully understand its data and organizational structures, you’ll need to analyze the system being consolidated and generate a detailed overview on system settings and data structures. This analysis will provide a full picture of existing discrepancies that need to be tackled throughout the project realization phase and during the actual data migration.
  3. Business blueprinting. The next step is to define a project approach based on the system analysis. At this stage, it is essential to classify the data and decide which data and organizational structures are relevant and need to be retained or adapted in some way. These requirements can then be documented in a business blueprint.
  4. Setting up a target system. Depending on the chosen scenario, the project team will then decide on which system they will center the consolidation. Perhaps an existing system will work as the target system or, if a company will be changing its business processes and system requirements, a new system will need to be prepared.
  5. Data extraction. At this stage, the project team extracts the data from the various systems based on the business blueprint requirements. There’s a variety of different technologies that enable this extraction depending on the company’s needs.
  6. Data transformation. In many cases, the project team will need to adapt the extracted data in some way to reflect the defined target structure. This adaptation may include the harmonization or unification of data or the reallocation of organizational structures.
  7. Data load. After data extraction and transformation, the project team can load the data into the defined target structures.
  8. Data verification. As a last step, the project team must thoroughly test and verify the data in the new environment using key user tests based on a defined test strategy and test plans.
  9. Run business from new system. Once the data has been consolidated in the target system, you can start running your business based on it.

System Decommissioning

Few companies can afford to keep a fleet of expensive legacy applications up and running. It’s far better to spend one’s IT budget on innovating and supporting the company’s business direction, rather than on maintaining legacy environments. And from a green IT perspective, these legacy systems consume unnecessary energy for operations and cooling. System decommissioning involves:1

  1. Project management and resource planning. Again, resources, including IT and business members, are identified according to predefined project roles.
  2. System analysis. A decommissioning project most often starts with a system or content analysis to help determine any applicable legal compliance requirements around the system’s business objects. 
  3. Business blueprinting. Then, your company can come up with a customized decommissioning plan that takes into account applicable retention rules and policies.
  4. Setting up a target system. Next, you’ll set up a retention warehouse that will hold the data that you need to keep for auditing and legal purposes.
  5. Data extraction. You’ll then need to extract the data, transfer it to the retention warehouse and potentially convert it if the source and target system vendors are different.
  6. Data conversion. Next, you need to set up your retention policies and rules and convert the data taken over from the legacy system to an information lifecycle management (ILM)-based format. Basically, this means using the conversion tool in SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management to split up archive sessions and create new archive files sorted by expiration dates.
  7. Data storage. To make sure your data is kept in a secure place and is safe from manipulation, you need to store it on an ILM-aware storage system. From there you can access your data any time you need it for reporting purposes. It is also possible to combine data conversion and storage in an automated flow.
  8. Data verification. To ensure the data in your warehouse is correct and complete so you can shut down the legacy system, you’ll need to perform quantitative and qualitative verifications (using the checksum function of SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management, for instance).
  9. Shut down the legacy system. Finally, you’re ready to shut down the old system.

The Most Efficient Solution

As we showed in the previous sections, a system consolidation and a system decommissioning project involve many of the same steps; combining the projects eliminates redundancy, saving  both time and money. For example, by running the projects in unison, companies won’t need to run a system analysis multiple times.

To learn more about system consolidation and decommissioning, visit http://service.sap.com/slo and www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/ilm

Georg Fischer (ge.fischer@sap.com) has been responsible for data archiving product management at SAP AG since 1998. In 2009, he became the Vice President in Solution Management for Archiving and Information Lifecycle Management.

Stefanie Kübler (stefanie.kuebler@sap.com) has been working for SAP Consulting in the area of System Landscape Optimization (SLO) since 2003. In 2010, she became head of a global consulting team for information lifecycle management.

1 This is just a brief overview of the decommissioning process. For more information, see “Running a System Decommissioning Project with SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management” by Tanja Kaufmann and Claudia Dangers in the July-September 2009 issue of SAPinsider. [back]

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