Server sprawl occurs when your team has an excessive amount of servers, creating unneeded complexity. Essentially, it’s an inefficient use of resources because the vast majority of servers are not utilized to their full capacity.
This is caused by poor planning. Planning your infrastructure can be difficult as your business scales, and acquiring and implementing more physical servers can often seem easier than virtualizing servers.
We turned to an industry expert, Jen Martinson, the General Manager for Secure Thoughts, for some insight into server sprawl. Here is what she had to say…
Server Sprawl by Jen Martinson
Server sprawl comes down to one major issue: inefficiency. Whether you have underutilized servers you are costing a business resources that could be spent elsewhere.
Inefficiency is usually solved by good management and planning. Here are some other things that businesses should plan and prepare for:
1) Try to use as few server types and platforms available
This way the maintenance will decrease as whoever is in charge of the servers will grow specialized in keeping your machines running at the peak of their ability. Your company may also be able to get the benefits of working with a single vendor for your technology needs.
2) Consolidate your servers
It isn’t the easiest solution, but if you have an expert in server consolidation on your IT team, then you can get multiple virtual machines running on a single piece of hardware. This will drastically increase the efficiency of your hardware setup.
3) Choose quality over quantity
It could be possible that a series of cheaper servers might look better to your company than a smaller number of higher-quality machines. This is because your company probably isn’t looking as maintenance, power, and management costs. Those only get worse as your infrastructure grows, and eventually it will reach a point where your company will be wishing they invested in better machines early on.
4) Hire the best people
You probably already have some great IT experts on your team, but if they aren’t experts in the field of managing servers then they are best utilized elsewhere in the company. Either invest in their training or bring on experts who specialize in the types of skills necessary to prevent server sprawl. The money will be well spent.
If there is already a problem with server sprawl, then it is advised to keep the servers that are available but to hire an expert (or re-utilize an expert in the company already) to consolidate your processes. Once you have a proper system set up then follow the tips above and have your new growth go into the previously underutilized server resources.
Jen has some great ideas for dealing with server sprawl. We particularly like her ideas of hiring the best IT talent and consolidating servers. In fact we have an article on interview questions for system administrators you should check out. We have another piece on server consolidation and virtualization here as well that might be of interest.