Evolution of x86 Server Estates

Modernisation drivers and practicalities


Published/updated: November 2009

by Dale Vile and Jon Collins

Justifying the purchase of x86 servers to run new applications has never appeared a real issue for most organisations. Indeed, as costs have come down for ever more powerful kit, the server procurement habit has often led to the accumulation of large x86 estates made up of multiple generations of equipment. But as these estates have grown over time, have they kept up with the real demands of the business from a service delivery perspective? And with this question in mind, what is the case for investment in modernisation of the x86 environment?

KEY FINDINGS

Businesses are dependent on x86 servers running Windows and Linux
Feedback gathered during a recent survey of almost a thousand IT professionals confirmed it is typical for larger organisations to be running many hundreds, if not thousands, of Windows and/or Linux x86 servers, with even smaller entities often above the ten server level. Running workloads ranging from database management, through application and web serving, to security services, there is no doubt that the x86 server is now very much part of the IT and business fabric.

Yet performance of x86 estates can leave a lot to be desired in many cases
During our research, four key performance indicators (KPIs) were considered - quality of service, time to benefit for new capability, risk management, and operational efficiency. For every indicator, while some organisations are achieving great success, a similar number are failing to deliver acceptably, with those in the middle having room for improvement to one degree or another.

At a detailed level, a number of specific drivers for change and evolution exist
Apart from improving overall performance, a number of more specific drivers of change and evolution are evident. From a business perspective, these are mostly to do with supporting the dynamic nature of the modern business environment, dealing with data growth, supporting new or changing application functionality, etc – i.e. the main imperative is to allow more to be done. From a technical and operational perspective, virtualisation stands out as being the most prominent agent of change.

Single dimensional views of modernisation can lead to missed opportunity
Those with older x86 estates tend to perform significantly less well, as do organisations with big gaps in their monitoring and management capability. When looking to drive improvements, however, it is worth bearing in mind that modern equipment is inherently more manageable and capable of supporting virtualised environments, as well as providing greater operational visibility. Dealing with either hardware upgrade or operational improvement alone therefore means opportunities will be missed and return on investment will not be maximised.

A joined-up service-centric approach is recommended
When reviewing current capability and looking at modernisation options, there is value in taking a holistic approach with the overall objective of creating an efficient, flexible and well managed virtualised environment. Defining the problem in terms of overall service delivery will help to make sure that infrastructure modernisation is acknowledged as a legitimate part of the business agenda.

Study based on feedback gathered via an online survey of 979 IT professionals from the UK, USA, and other geographies.


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