Server Consolidation is a popular way 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. 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.
What is Server Consolidation?
Server consolidation is a way to make a more efficient IT environment by combining servers or replacing legacy servers with virtual systems, the cloud or SaaS products.
Server consolidation is exactly what it sounds like, it’s essentially consolidating hardware for more effective usage.
Consolidating resources offers several benefits, such as:
- Decrease in cooling and electrical costs
- Reduction in server load growth and data center expansion
- Reduction in warranty and licensing costs
- Purchasing power of commodity hardware as opposed to specialized hardware
- Business agility with the ability to leverage cloud and shared infrastructure
These all save operational costs almost immediately, which is often the goal of consolidation. Minimizing and potentially eliminating overhead costs of operational maintenance and physical storage of network infrastructure is a huge benefit. You save on costs like square footage where hardware once lived, money spent on power consumption, and ongoing hardware maintenance costs. It all adds up.
Consolidation typically is recommended if you are moving from hardware that is 2-3 years old and you can utilize a 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 they 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
Server virtualization might be the more popular way to do this, and you do that by running multiple virtualized servers on one physical server.
Why would you want to do this? Jonathan Hurdman, Owner and IT Specialist at J & J Automation, gave us a few solid examples:
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 is less likely to be dormant resources. Consolidation can thus save money while keeping your servers running more efficiently. — Jonathan Hurdman
Overall, virtualization is a good way to run several operating systems on the same hardware.
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). The virtual machine, therefore, 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, letting you save those resources for more important tasks that you can use a virtualized or dedicated server for. There are also savings with regards to operational costs of upkeep and electricity by moving these items off your infrastructure.
Sam Baskar said you can use products like SmartFile. It’s a “cloud vendor from whom you can subscribe compute and storage power and use them as if they are 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 platforms (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. — Gary Feldman
Going Forward: Concerns and Solutions for Server Consolidation
Server consolidation is getting more advanced and complex. You can use it to make more efficient use of processing power and storage.
However, there are some hiccups. Some companies have struggled with regard to connecting multiple servers to a single storage resource. To get past this, they can use an on-premise software-defined storage (SDS) file management solution 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. There are several other benefits as well (file sharing, data monitoring, user access and permissions, compliance and more) but it is definitely aiding companies with their server consolidation and infrastructure projects.