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What is Server Consolidation and Why Should You Do It?

Server Consolidation is a popular way for many companies to make more efficient use of hardware and resources. It’s a terrific way for IT to save their budget, especially considering that so few servers are used to their full capacity. Have you ever considered that you may be wasting space and resources by using servers that aren’t running at a high enough capacity to justify the investment? It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Consider server consolidation instead of having a server that runs at 15-20% capacity and racking up unnecessary costs. Server consolidation is a popular option that more and more companies have adopted, as it maximizes the effective use of server resources and decreases the number of servers required by a company.

In this article, you’ll be able to answer the question, “what is server consolidation?” and understand why it’s an important project to implement in your business.

Server Consolidation & Its Benefits

Server consolidation is a way to make a more efficient IT environment. This is typically accomplished by combining servers or replacing physical servers with virtual systems, the cloud, or SaaS products. The actual act of server consolidation is exactly what it sounds like: consolidating hardware for more effective usage. This is an appealing endeavor to most companies; here are some of the main benefits of consolidating resources:

Server Management, Simplified 

The more servers you have, the more challenging it can become to oversee them. Making the switch to only having a few standardized servers is easier to manage and can be monitored using a straightforward and intuitive dashboard. It should be easy to monitor the state of your IT system—consolidation makes it that way.

Lower Hardware & Operational Costs

If you choose to go through with server consolidation, your business’s IT team will thank you! Consolidation reduces the number of machines your IT department has to look after, giving them more time to focus on the other tasks that require their attention on the day-to-day.

Built-In Backup & Disaster Recovery

No matter if it’s human error or a natural disaster, damage can happen to your physical servers that prevent access to your data and disrupt your business. The cool thing about virtual servers is that they are independent of the device used to run them. This means that if your physical servers happen to become damaged for whatever reason, you can simply run your virtual servers using another server.

Eco-Friendly Alternative

A 2020 survey conducted by IBM and the National Retail Federation found that 70% of customers from both the United States and Canada find it important for companies to be sustainable and eco-friendly. As a result, server consolidation is a beneficial option for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint while simultaneously reducing their company energy costs and requirements.

Why We Recommend Server Consolidation

As you’ve probably gathered, server consolidation saves operational costs almost immediately, which is often the goal of this process. Minimizing and potentially eliminating overhead costs of operational maintenance and physical storage of network infrastructure is a huge benefit. You save on expenses like money spent on power consumption, ongoing hardware maintenance costs, and square footage where hardware once lived. Trust us—it all adds up to more savings than you’d initially think!

Consolidation typically is recommended if you are moving from hardware that is 2-3 years old, and you can utilize new hardware with less than 70% of a footprint from the previous years. Hard drives, CPUs and RAM simply get bigger and cheaper, thus giving one the ability to remove a server that has 8GB of RAM to consolidate 20 servers that can do 128GB RAM. The effect is similar to storage space, where we have seen the cost of space drop significantly.

What Creates Server Consolidation?

Tim Singleton, President of Strive Technology Consulting, gave us some insight into the genesis of server consolidation:

“There is a theory in IT architecture that suggests each major function on a network should have its own dedicated server. This way, the critical components don’t have to compete with each other for resources. This can lead to over-engineered networks where several servers are using a tiny fraction of their available resources.”

 — Tim Singleton

Server Consolidation through Server Virtualization

Overall, virtualization is a good way to run several operating systems on the same hardware, and you do that by running multiple virtualized servers on one physical server. This gives organizations the option to move workloads between physical servers as needed. For example, if one server required maintenance, all workloads could be easily moved to one or more servers with little to no downtime. And if a server were to fail unexpectedly, a workload can be failed over or restarted on other servers to minimize time wasted.

Jonathan Hurdman, Owner and IT Specialist at J & J Automation, gave us a few solid examples of why making the move is a no-brainer:

“For example, say you have a web server, a file server, and a backup server. The web server is always running but doesn’t use a lot of resources. The file server is running during business hours but does next to nothing at night. The backup server runs every night, not in the evening or during the day, and consumes the most resources. The file server and the backup server aren’t maxing out at the same time, meaning they are idle most of the time. The web server is always running but doesn’t use all of the resources it has. If all three of these servers are virtual machines on the same machine, then the cost of boosting the power of each server is cut down by one-third, as there is only one machine to upgrade. All of the VMs [virtual machines] benefit, and there are less likely to be dormant resources. Consolidation can thus save money while keeping your servers running more efficiently.

 — Jonathan Hurdman

How Does the Virtualized Machine Know What Resources It Owns?

This is a logical question, as a machine typically assumes it owns all the resources. This would mean a virtual server would compete for resources with other virtual servers on the same host server.

Each virtualized server is given an allocation of resources by a hypervisor or virtual machine monitor (VMM). Therefore, the virtual machine believes it has all the resources, even though it really doesn’t. The hypervisor allocates the host server’s resources to each individual virtual machine. The hypervisor can allocate storage, RAM, and other resources to each machine.

Consolidating Services Through the Cloud and SaaS

Using cloud and SaaS tools is also an important part of your server consolidation plan. SmartFile’s cloud file sharing and storage and developer products offer unique ways to push tasks and storage out of your office.

These tools let you move storage and processing power off your grid. Even if you’re not openly using cloud products for file sharing, it pushes processing power off your network, saving those resources for more important tasks for which you can use a virtualized or dedicated server. There are also savings regarding operational costs of upkeep and electricity by moving these items off your infrastructure.

Seasoned software engineer Sam Baskar said you could use products like SmartFile for reliable consolidation. It’s a “cloud vendor from whom you can subscribe to compute and storage power and use them as if they are a utility company.”

Gary Feldman also had some thoughts on transitioning this way:

“The second step is transitioning to the cloud, which is becoming extremely prominent with the recent one-two punch of public cloud virtual server hosting options and availability of affordable software as a service platform (SaaS) for specific business application hosting (e.g., Quickbooks Online, Salesforce, Office 365). With SaaS, operating system maintenance is completely eliminated while still being able to provide business capable applications that are now backed by guaranteed Service Level Agreements, promoting guaranteed uptime and performance standards, and always ready to meet your needs.” 

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Going Forward: Concerns and Solutions for Server Consolidation

Though server consolidation is extremely beneficial in most situations, the process is getting more advanced and complex. Of course, this has created some hiccups along the way that we think are important to consider.

To start, we want to clarify that it is possible to over-consolidate. No matter what server you’re using, it has its limits. And with virtualization, it can be super easy to overburden your server unintentionally—especially when we consider today’s always “on” IT climate. Furthermore, over-consolidation can significantly hinder application performance and workload migration capabilities, potentially causing the server to crash.

Another issue is that some companies struggle when it comes to connecting multiple servers to a single storage resource. To get past this, they can use on-premise software-defined storage (SDS) file management solutions like SmartFile’s FileHub™. This sits on top of a host server and can accept connections from others. It can then handle all the storage connections (including this one massive storage unit). Tools like FileHub™ help server consolidation projects by decreasing the complexity from a storage perspective. Of course, there are several other benefits as well (file sharing, data monitoring, user access and permissions, compliance, and more), but it is definitely worth looking into if you’re a company needing assistance with server consolidation and infrastructure projects.

Team Up With SmartFile!

At SmartFile, we can help you develop a time and cost-saving server consolidation and virtualization strategy that best suits your unique company. Our software can help you achieve whatever consolidation goals you have in mind—let us work with you to devise and execute a plan that creates more streamlined efficiency in your business. Reach out today!

SmartFile is a business file mangement platform that gives you more control, compliance and security.