Reducing energy costs by consolidating servers means moving massive amounts of data, and new migration techniques are emerging to help IT managers wring inefficiencies out of an otherwise laborious process.

"There are two ways to do a data migration: In band, which uses an actual piece of hardware, such as a switch or an appliance. Or you can go outside of the band of the flow of data, which is easier," says Josh Klein, president and CEO of AutoVirt, a Nashua, NH-based firm that sells automated data migration and optimization software, along with competitors such as F5 and Brocade.

Five Point Capital is deploying AutoVirt's software to drive its reduction from 50 physical servers onto four ESXi servers to minimize energy use by reducing server sprawl, power and cooling, and to adhere to stricter California state environmental guidelines.

San Diego-based Five Point estimates the server consolidation project, which will also allow the institution to close one of its two server rooms, will save about $100,000 in its first year. "We had a number of abandoned workstations and stray servers storing data that was no longer critical," says Mike Williams, senior network engineer for Five Point, who says the energy use savings from the project will be about 50 percent.

There's also a business case enhancing the green argument, as Williams says automating data migration has eliminated the need to purchase additional hardware "in addition to saving me the countless hours that I would have typically dedicated to a manual data migration. Moreover, I have eliminated the need to hire another systems administrator dedicated to 'challenged' servers who would spend more time putting out fires, rather than adding value to the business."

The speed and cost reduction is enabled by what AutoVirt, whose clients also include Enterprise Bank, Bank of New York Mellon and Bank of America, calls its out-of-band methodology. This allows data files to migrate into consolidated storage without impacting user and application file paths. It's designed to reduce bottlenecks in data transferal and enables data to be migrated without recoding and renaming files - and without having to physically migrate data through an appliance or switch. AutoVirt charges based on volume, with its software prices starting at $10,000.

Nigel Burmeister, a director in the data solutions group for F5, which counts State Street among its financial clients and recently completed a data migration project for Pacific Health Plans, says the time reduction possible from automating migration can be significant.

The tech firm's configuration assistant product automatically configures a server virtualization device to a network attached storage device (NAS). That simplifies access to the NAS and enables seamless movement of files between NAS devices, enabling faster data flow. Burmeister says one financial client spent an entire year migrating five file servers by using manual hardware-intensive processes, then migrated 80 servers in one month by automating data migration. By making energy reduction projects easier to execute, firms like F5 and AutoVirt hope a physical barrier to approving these projects can be removed. "The 'green' aspects of server consolidation justify the project," Burmeister says. "But what gets overlooked is how tough it can be to actually do a data migration."

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