One of the major issues that IT managers face is server sprawl, and the need to expand their capability has led to increased costs and complex server management structures.

One proven method to mitigate server sprawl is to use virtualisation to consolidate the infrastructure.

The major benefits include an overall lower cost of ownership, reduced risk of hardware failure, infinite expandability, and operational flexibility that only VMs can offer. According to VMWare this can reduce hardware and operating costs by as much as 50%.

High ratios

It is now possible, using platforms such as VMware, to deploy virtual machines (VMs) with ratios of at least five per processor on standard x86 servers. And of course when future expansion is required, new virtual servers can be deployed reducing the capital cost of purchasing new servers and reducing overall server sprawl.

One of the key areas that IT managers need to correctly deploy is the partitioning of servers for their intended VMs. VMware's ESX server software is one of those that can create and manage multiple VMs across multiple server installations, and coupled with Dell's OpenManage system it gives IT managers a set of tools to efficiently manage their virtual machine deployments.

Additional management tools are also available to help IT managers easily expand their VM installations, and obtain the most efficient use of their servers as possible. An example is Dell's Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), which makes it possible to automatically migrate VMs to a new location to achieve load balancing and avoid resource contention.

Ebb and flow

Dell explains: "DRS enables system administrators and architects to design application and workload containers on resource pools composed of VMs. Because VMs are not tied to a particular server, DRS-based policies and rules enable VMs to autonomously and automatically migrate as data centre resource demands ebb and flow throughout the day or work cycle."

A new deployment of multiple virtual servers on their host machines does need to be approached with care.

The first step is to map your existing server environment and the loads that these machines are currently managing. This will give a clear indication of the number of VMs that need to be created and which servers will host them.

Once deployed, virtual server templates allow new virtual servers to be created with ease, which can consequently be better managed by IT departments.