How to Shrink The Data Center: 4 Lessons Learned

The business that manages New York City's hospitals consolidates 11 data centers into two facilities, dispensing with two-thirds of their physical servers for a predicted savings of $70 million over 5 years. Consider these four tips.

By Robert Lemos
Thu, April 21, 2011

CIO — Updating data center operations was a key goal when the integrated healthcare system for New York City's hospitals embarked on its five-year $824 million capital investment plan.

The NY City Health and Hospitals Corp. manages the $6.7 billion healthcare system that connects the metropolitan area's 11 hospitals as well as nursing homes, treatment centers and 80 city clinics. The data centers serving the hospitals had reached the end of their usefulness and required a large number of staff to support, says Corey Cush, assistant VP of infrastructure services for NY City Health and Hospitals Corp. Rather than renovating the 11 data centers, the NYC HHC decided on consolidation.

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"We have been able to save on power, we have been able to save on maintenance, and we have been able to save on the recurring cost of adding additional servers as we continue to expand our application and service portfolio," Cush says.

The healthcare system cut the 1,700 physical servers hosted in its data centers by 63 percent and reduced the staff needed to manage and maintain the consolidated data centers. The total savings should reach nearly $70 million over 5 years, the group predicts.

1. Fast virtualization saves money
To maintain its 11 data centers, the NYC HHC had a fairly painful upgrade cycle. Every year, the corporation had to replace hundreds of servers and supporting hardware. By quickly virtualizing their servers and reducing the number of data centers, NYC HHC saved about $8 million by avoiding those upgrade costs.

"The faster that you can virtualize, the more immediately you can realize the savings," says Cush. "When I go to do the budget next year, and I don't have to pay for 800 or more servers."

The server reduction efforts are still ongoing, says Cush. And while the number of servers is being slashed, the company is still expanding its application portfolio.

2. Consolidation allows greening of the data center
Along with reducing the number of facilities, the company has added green technologies, such as better cooling systems, to the remaining two data centers. Consolidation has helped that effort as well, allowing the company to spend on greener technologies because it only had to outfit two data centers, not the original 11 facilities.

"By far, most of these savings are coming up by running virtual environments," says Bert Robles, senior VP and corporate CIO for the NYC HHC. "By doing that, it contributed to the power savings and the environmental savings ... with more efficient cooling and heating exchange."

In addition, slashing the total data-center space from 21,000 square feet to about 7,000 square feet has saved costs as well.

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