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Why Everyone and Their Mother Should Use Consolidated Servers

Posted by QuoteColo on March 05, 2015 - Updated on February 28, 2015

why everyone and their moother should use server consolidation

In a concentrated effort to lower IT costs for clients, to raise revenue margins for providers, to lower the environmental impact of constantly running web servers and to strengthen the IT compute power of sluggish servers, web hosting providers offer consolidated solutions.

What Are Consolidated Web Servers?

In short, server consolidation is the process of shifting and consolidating server data from multiple low-efficient servers into a single highly proficient server. With many IT data center studies revealing a good portion of servers in a DC running at sub-20% usage rates, server consolidation transfers data from sub-performing servers (typically 35 – 45 % efficiency or below) into a server capable of running at higher performance rates with more data. The aim of server consolidation is to replace low functioning servers from the data center floor with more powerful, more capable web servers.

Server consolidation first came into play to answer the growing issue of server sprawl. As the name suggests, server sprawl refers to “a situation in which multiple, under-utilized servers take up more space and consume more resources than can be justified by their workload.”

Why Sever Consolidation?

In a recent study of server usage as compared with data center footprint, Gartner Group found that most data center providers typically have a fair amount of servers on the floor operating at 15% – 20% of their overall capacity. This means while only running at 15% – 20% of their compute power, the server is eating up as much or more energy than a more efficient server.

Within the study Gartner Group conducted, of the 518 respondents, six percent of data center providers had already completed a server consolidation project, 61% of respondents were currently working on server consolidation and 28% were planning on consolidating in the immediate future.

The main reason respondents polled provided for taking on server consolidation was to increase server efficiency when compared to overall energy use and data center floor imprint.

Benefits of Server Consolidation for Data Center Providers

The benefits of server consolidation for data center providers are very straight forward.

  1. More Efficient Web Servers – Like any business, data center providers want to get the most of their resources for the least amount of money. The greater the amount of low functioning servers on a data center floor equates to higher IT support needs, higher electricity costs and less efficient compute resources. Low function web servers cause IT headaches for both data center providers and consumers. Operating with more efficient consolidated servers not only means higher customer satisfaction in terms of monthly spend and compute resource use, but it also means less technical IT support from the provider. Less IT support means less man hours and lower costs. 
  2. Lower Cost of Operation – Consolidating low functioning servers into one or multiple high function servers means operating less web servers. In turn, this means cutting electricity costs, cooling costs and IT maintenance costs. As mentioned, businesses want to make a profit at the lowest cost margin possible. Server consolidation does just that.
  3. Potential for Higher Revenues – The logical consequence of transferring and shutting down low function servers to high functioning servers is more room on the data center floor for new clients. Server consolidation frees up data center square feet, which in turn, enables data centers to court new customers in new (hopefully) highly functioning servers. 

Likewise, the benefits of server consolidation for consumers are very straight forward.

  1. Lowering the Cost of Hosting – Server consolidation is your chance to lower your companies IT footprint within a data center. By consolidating multiple low function web servers, your provider is openly asking you to pay less for already utilized IT solutions. As it functions, less hardware equals less consumer monthly IT spend.
  2. More Powerful IT Hosting Environment – Server consolidation means moving your web hosting data to a more efficient, more compute resource powerful web server. By its very definition, consolidation of servers means joining multiple low functioning servers into a single streamlined powerful web server environment. For the consumer, server consolidation should be looked at as an IT hardware upgrade for your hosting environment.
  3. Greater IT Support – One of the potential downsides to server consolidation is increasing the workload of a single server means increasing the complexity of the IT infrastructure within that server. The more consolidation takes place in a single hosting environment, the more attention that server is going to need by the onsite IT team to ensure that server is running at top efficiency without any internal environment issues. For the consumer lacking top notch IT knowledge, server consolidation might prove too complex yet for the consumer who has their server managed by IT professionals, consolidation means more attention and greater IT management. 

Environmental Impact for Providers and Consumers – While consumers and providers gain from different benefits associated with server consolidation, the environmental impact of consolidation is key to both sides. With the growing cloud computing and virtualization market, anytime a provider and a consumer can lessen hardware impact within a data center footprint is a win for both sides. In multiple articles, studies and energy polls conducted by various monitoring/reporting agencies, data centers have been shown to consume higher quantities of energy in a single year than the average American small – medium city (0 – 10,000 residents).

The underlying issue here is that data centers, as much as they consolidate and work to lessen negative environmental impact, still eat up a vast quantity of energy.

A yearlong examination by The New York Times has revealed that this foundation of the information industry is sharply at odds with its image of sleek efficiency and environmental friendliness.

Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner, interviews and documents show. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid, The Times found.” – The New York Times, “Power, Pollution and the Internet”; Sept 22, 2012

Server consolidation works to lessen the energy impact of data centers. By using less hardware and lowering cooling energy consumption/output, server consolidation is an internal mechanism for providing more “green” friendly hosting services.

Server Consolidation and Virtualization

As mentioned, the IT world is wholly underway with its cloud revolution. With more and more hosting needs taking place within a cloud architecture, server consolidation becomes an important aspect of the data center landscape in terms of streamlining virtualization solutions.

Through the use of virtualization solutions, more and more physical IT hardware needs (see smart dedicated servers) can be transferred from physical hardware to virtual interfaces. As virtualization solutions like KVM, Xen, OpenVZ and Hyper-V become more powerful each year, the industry is shedding its reliance on old IT hardware in favor of virtually controlled environments. While these virtually controlled compute resources require additional hardware, it enables the retirement of old inefficient hardware serving as an energy drag within the hosted environment.

In terms of server consolidation, more powerful virtualization services allow higher quantities of resources to be controlled through the hypervisor level. In turn, this enables provides to pack more data on a single server and limit the amount of hardware needed.

General Summary of Benefits of Consolidated Server Environments

  1. Lower IT costs for providers and consumers
  2. Lower energy footprint
  3. Greater amount of higher efficiency servers
  4. Virtualization enables the shedding of old inefficient IT hardware
  5. Higher revenues for both providers and consumers

What Do You Think?