Interests Professional

Server Consolidation

With the looming server consolidation and subsequent reorganization I’ve decided to ramble a bit and share my thoughts and concerns.

I work in an educational environment with a distributed IT model.  Seems years ago (I wasn’t here, so I’m going on hearsay here) the university had a centralized IT model and the level of service the individual departments received was unacceptable.  So, individual departments hired their own technical staff, set up their own services and continued to serve their clients (faculty, staff and students) as best they could.  The Centralized IT structure provided infrastructure service (email, phone, internet, etc) and some departments chose to go with their own email and/or calendaring solutions.

Well, it seems as if the cycle is to continue and the mode of operation for this university is to go back to a centralized structure.  Now, I’m on the outside of that structure, so I don’t have insider knowledge as to what is going to happen (which is a concern to me and I would think everyone in my situation).  I can see the benefits of a centralized IT providing university wide services; mail, calendaring, web hosting, internet and phone.  I can even see the benefit of a central IT structure setting down rules and guidelines concerning what security standards must be met in order to “stand up” a server on campus.  I’m even fine with meeting those standards, but I’m concerned about the ability of a larger structure, concerned with university wide services, to provide the support and service for those smaller specialized applications used on a departmental basis.  Those concerns aside, I’m still willing to work with the centralized IT, I’m still willing to see what advantages can be provided by a consolidated bargaining unit when it comes to purchasing hardware and software.

When talking about server consolidation — and when talking consolidation let’s not forget the subsequent consolidation (read reduction) of work force — the buzz words seem to be “economies of scale”, and “providing better service by providing specialized expertise”.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m stretched between multiple projects most of the time and I rarely have time to become an “expert” (that may be the subject of another rant) in any one area.  However, when the centralized IT talks about expertise, they are also (once again, this is from my viewpoint from outside the structure) talking about limiting what services are provided.  The focus seems to be on Oracle DB services and MicroSoft server products.  Needless to say, this is a concern to me.  I’m more of a LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) person myself.  Now we’ve been guaranteed there would be no “reduction in service” but when you have staffing that doesn’t allow you to support what’s running “out in the field” how is that possible?

These are just a few of my concerns, and they’re not to the point of keeping me awake at night… yet.  But as I work on providing a list of servers and the services they provide these concerns come to the forefront.  I have an investment in my area and I have an investment in the services I provide.  I almost feel as if I’m providing a hit list of sorts, betraying my department by providing information that will eventually lead changes, changes that may not be fully welcome.

I see the security concerns, I see the concerns of a CIO that may not fully know what all technology is being used on campus.  But I am also keenly aware of the concerns of my fellow coworkers and department.  I’m aware of the services we provide because that service wasn’t offered centrally.  And most of all, being the selfish being that I am, I’m concerned about what my job will look like in the coming year.

Of course, after writing this, I may not have to worry about that…