Right-size, right now: How server consolidation can benefit your data center

Right-size, right now: How server consolidation can benefit your data center


It’s become common knowledge that today’s corporate IT infrastructure encompasses increasingly complex configurations of data applications and servers. Businesses now use more applications than ever before, to the tune of roughly 460 custom applications for the average enterprise, according to a Cloud Security Alliance report, and as many 780 for large enterprises. While creative strategies have emerged to help maintain and manage these critical IT assets, many of us are still dealing with considerable server sprawl and unused resources.

Enter server consolidation, or right-sizing, a critical approach for balancing current server workloads and optimizing available capacity. Server consolidation can offer significant benefits for today’s data centers, not the least of these include cost savings, enhanced use of server resources, and improved return on investment for IT projects.

The problem: Inefficiencies, unnecessary costs and server sprawl

With the ever-evolving trends in backend IT, including increasingly complex workloads and needs to incorporate new applications and platforms, you may be worried about your available capacity. Any lack of necessary resources can tip your IT initiative on its head, and result in sluggish performance and even unsuccessful deployments.

To compensate for this issue, some admins choose to overprovision or overestimate the number of resources they’ll need. While this can leave ample free space and room to grow, it can also result in multiple underutilized servers, or server sprawl.

In fact, according to IBM Systems, it’s very rare for businesses to use more than 6% of server capacity, and as many as 30% of existing servers are considered “zombies” — the lights are on, the machines are drawing utilities, but they’re not supporting workloads or providing meaningful functionality.

“The wasteful phenomenon commonly known as server sprawl sprung up in the days when almost every application had its own server,” Chris Churchey, ATS Group co-founder and IBM Systems contributor wrote. “The one-to-one ratio was a simple solution that ensured satisfactory response time and gave IT leaders peace of mind. Unfortunately, like a restaurant hiring a waiter for every table … it’s also exorbitantly costly.”

What’s more, these zombie servers are often forgotten, and sit in the back or corner of the data center, adding to utility and overall IT costs. When something like a major IT initiative or a merger or acquisition comes up, it can compound the issue and increase server sprawl. This can happen with both physical servers and virtual machines, and it’s imperative for IT administrators to keep an eye on their data center configuration to ensure they don’t consume more resources than necessary.

The solution: A properly managed server consolidation project

Without efficient management and oversight, the issue of server sprawl — as well as compounded problems like unnecessary costs and increasingly complex configurations of data applications and servers within the data center — only grows.

The solution is to spearhead a proper server consolidation project that can help reduce the number of underutilized physical and virtual machines and ensure the most efficient and cost-effective use of available server resources.

Server consolidation initiatives come with several, key advantages for your internal IT team and data center:

  • Reduce the required servers: Server consolidation involves a better balancing of current workloads among available virtual machines and physical servers. In this way, application workloads that don’t require their own, individual server can be combined with others to minimize space and resource consumption. The IT team can reduce the number of physical servers and balance out workloads among virtual machines for more efficient computing and fewer servers required. In fact, the typical server can now support as many as 1024 virtual machines, according to VMware, enabling businesses to reduce their server hardware by as much a 15:1 ratio.
  • Improved management: In turn, fewer physical servers means that management of the data center is much less complex, and likely much less time-consuming for your team. You can be more confident in their data center management with fewer servers required. You may even find yourself with more time to devote to critical and value-add work, as opposed to putting out performance or capacity fires within the server infrastructure.
  • Eliminate unnecessary costs: One of the biggest motivating factors for a server consolidation project is the ability to reduce unnecessary IT and data center expenditures. Consider the multiple, underutilized servers in the typical data center. These are still drawing upon power and cooling resources, driving up the cost of managing and maintaining the facility without adding any necessary support or computing power. Eliminating these machines and reducing overall server sprawl can cut data center operating costs considerably — in some cases, by more than $3,000 annually, according to VMware.

“You can also shift IT resources and budgets away from tactical maintenance to strategic projects,” VMware noted. “[Server consolidation] automates and simplifies tedious day-to-day tasks like provisioning, hardware maintenance, and performance management. This reduces the cost and complexity of managing IT in your data center.”

How to start your server consolidation project

While a consolidation initiative can greatly benefit your data center, it’s imperative to note that these projects must be undertaken with the right planning and foresight in place. After all, you  must be sure that you’re carefully combining workloads in a way that won’t hamper application performance or overall access.

It’s best to start a server consolidation project with an infrastructure performance monitoring tool that can provide a clear picture of current workloads and the best ways in which to analyze and group servers.

For more details, check out our Server Consolidation solution page, and reach out to our Galileo Performance Explorer expert consultants today.

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