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Virtual servers are not free

Graham Titterington | July 20, 2010
Virtualization of servers doesnt solve the problem without a strategy to prevent virtual machine sprawl

Server monitoring and power management vendor 1E has announced version 2.0 of its NightWatchman product, enhancing its support for the management of virtual servers. Independent research in 2009 suggested that 15 per cent of servers in data centers were not doing any useful work, and were costing US$25 billion per year. Organizations that have adopted the previous version of NightWatchman, which was released late in 2009, have found that this was an underestimate of the size of the problem, and that their savings have exceeded this figure. The new release helps organizations deal with the emerging problem of virtual server sprawl, which results in unnecessary costs and wasted resources.

Organizations should pay more attention to retiring redundant servers in their cost-saving strategy

In October 2009 a global study by Kelton Research found that 15% of servers in data centers were not doing any useful work. They were not being detected by basic activity-monitoring tools because they were still performing housekeeping tasks such as updating their antivirus definitions. Extrapolating the study results globally indicated that they were costing their owners $25 billion per year in software licenses, power, cooling, and administration. Some IT managers were attacking the problem in a less than systematic fashion, using techniques such as turning off servers for a period to see if anybody complained! NightWatchman is able to differentiate between useful business work and self-serving administrative tasks. The experience of its early adopters is that this research underestimated the level of waste due to redundant servers.

Virtualization of servers doesnt solve the problem without a strategy to prevent virtual machine sprawl

As we move into an increasingly virtualized data center environment, it is essential that we do not simply repeat the problem by generating and then forgetting masses of virtual machines. This problem is known as VM sprawl. Virtual machines are not readily visible and are often thought of as ephemeral. This makes VM sprawl difficult to control. However, virtual machines require software licenses, tie up storage, pose potential security threats, and generally waste resources, including energy. Redundant virtual machines obscure the view of the utilization of their host processors and frustrate the efficient allocation of tasks to hosts.

VM sprawl has already become a problem in data center management. It is so easy to create virtual servers that users find it easier to create new virtual machines than to seek out an existing available asset, and it is also easy to forget to terminate a machine when its task is complete.

NightWatchman can determine how much useful work each virtual machine performs, as well as apportioning power consumption and license costs to each VM. This provides information that is useful to server administrators in optimizing their operations.


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