3 Steps for Better Data Center Capacity Planning

Capacity planning is no longer just a process aimed at forecasting hardware needs; it's the key to understanding and optimizing the cost of running business services through platform selection. Forrester recommends updating today's capacity planning process with three new steps to account for cost-value analysis, governance, and global planning.

By Jean-Pierre Garbani
Thu, June 23, 2011

CIO — In the coming years, the flexibility and cost alternatives provided by new technologies such as virtualization, internal and external cloud computing, and different types of cloud-based solutions will offer IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals a choice of platforms for running an application or business service. This changes the scope of capacity planning and consequently the process of planning capacities. Capacity planning is no longer just a process aimed at forecasting hardware needs; it's the key to understanding and optimizing the cost of running business services through platform selection.

The traditional capacity planning process was a four-phased affair. Step 1: Create a baseline to understand how your server, storage, or network infrastructure are used by capturing secondary indicators such as CPU load or global network traffic. Steps 2 and 3: Evaluate changes from new applications that are going to run on the infrastructure and the "drift" or workload due to increased activity in a given business services. And step 4: Analyze the data from the previous steps to forecast future infrastructure requirements and decide how to satisfy these requirements. The traditional approach is no longer acceptable because it is component and not business service-oriented, it doesn't take costs and value into consideration, and it doesn't place enough emphasis on emerging data center costs and constraints. The simple fact that a choice of placements exists for a given business service implies that we must consider all the elements that support the decision, especially from a cost and value standpoint, before making an informed decision on where a specific service should run.

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The capacity planning of tomorrow supports internal as well as external choices, virtual as well as physical alternatives. Furthermore, the new capacity planning organization is no longer part of the I&O department — it has to be part of an overall management group reporting to the CIO. To offer competitive IT services into the future, Forrester recommends that I&O professionals update today's capacity planning process with three new steps to account for cost-value analysis, governance, and global planning.

1. A Cost-Value Analysis is Added to Evaluate Where the Service Should be Located

This is a decision support step with a foundation in activity-based costing (ABC) (ABCB), which takes all the real costs into consideration in its analysis. For example, a business process may have a critical value yet have a total capital and operating cost that is far superior to what it should, considering the number of users or the frequency at which it is used. Such a service is a clear candidate for an alternative placement with a lower cost overhead. Going forward, it's critical for I&O professionals to understand the cost-value of business services, especially as facilities and energy costs consume a more significant portion of total IT capital and operating costs.

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