x86 Server virtualisation check point

How dynamic should your data centre be?

Published/updated: November 2010

By Andrew Buss


Data centres are considered to be in good shape and not in need of radical overhaul
While there are undeniably many challenges associated with running a large x86 server environment or data centre, this does not translate into the need for a wholesale overhaul of existing assets or a completely new approach for the sake of it. Many of the issues may be helped by adopting new technologies such as virtualisation, but these need to be considered in terms of how they can incrementally improve or build upon what is already in place.

Outright ownership of servers shows little sign of changing
Despite the economic issues of the last few years, approaches to server procurement still favour outright purchasing. Few companies put much emphasis on alternative options such as financing or leasing, let alone hosting or cloud. Opinions are slowly starting to change, as the future outlook is slightly less hostile to using externally procured services to support the physical infrastructure.

Virtualisation is being widely adopted but is limited mainly to consolidation activity
Virtualisation has become a central tenet of data centre strategy, but a lack of experience, skills and tools, as well as the pressing need to reduce costs, have limited its role to enabling server consolidation. Consolidation is a natural progression for server managers, which fits in with and complements existing server provisioning and management practices. This comes at the cost of some additional complexity in getting to grips with the abstraction that virtualisation provides.

Dynamic Infrastructure needs IT and the business to tie together for full effect
The vision of a fully dynamic infrastructure is appealing, but the journey is not without challenges and risks. IT may gain some advantages from adopting elements of continuously optimised infrastructure, but the level of investment required in terms of platforms and tools may put such an investment out of reach when based on the returns for IT alone. For the benefits to be fully realised, the business needs to be in the driving seat, so that the investment return can be realised and amplified across the business.

Power and efficiency savings are more of a focus than ‘Green IT’
‘Green’ has been one of the most hyped and controversial topics of the last decade, with a lot of focus in both column inches and legislation. Despite this, the majority of companies have no real focus on the environment and sustainability, and only one in eight allow ‘Green’ principles to guide IT investment and behaviour. Even though there may not be an explicit commitment to ‘Green IT’, focusing on power efficiency and reduction makes good operational and business sense.

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