In the past, the falling cost of hardware has encouraged businesses to simply buy a new server as the need arose. But after a few years they have become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain.
With the drive across the small business sector to reduce overall costs, consolidating servers is one practical way to do so.
Matt Eastwood, Group Vice President and General Manager, Enterprise Platforms at IDC, has commented: "Customer demand for new servers is being impacted by ongoing server consolidation, technology transitions, and challenging macroeconomic conditions across the globe.
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"It is clear that challenging market conditions are increasing the competitive dynamics for server market share globally, particularly since compute represents a critical element of larger IT transformations that continue to reshape broader enterprise IT market opportunities."
Before consolidation can take place, it is important to stand back and assess your current server estate. This will provide the basis of your consolidation efforts by enabling you to see where the changes should be made.
Business owners should understand that their IT team might have to update their management skills to deal with a consolidated server infrastructure. The network that the newly consolidated servers are connected to may also need upgrading.
In addition, the use of cloud services should be factored in, as in many cases, server consolidation will lead to a hybrid approach with a mixture of consolidated physical servers and some cloud-based components.
There are a number of benefits that server consolidation can deliver to the small business owner.
First is that it makes it easier to scale operations up or down. One of the issues with server sprawl is that new servers were added when additional capacity was needed.
If the estate is properly consolidated the number of physical servers can be reduced, but a level of expandability can be built in to allow room for later expansion.
Second is that it reduces the scale of management of overheads. Consolidation will enable one interface to control all the server assets and provide for fast and efficient updates of software patches and the operating system.
Next is that it can make for more efficient virtualisation as it becomes easier to set up and manage. Moving away from the traditional 'one workload on one box' to virtual environments can deliver massive cost savings and efficiency gains moving the usage of typical server hardware usage from about 15% to as much as 80%
Try the VMware vCenter Converter utility to see what impact virtualisation could have on your business's servers.
Finally, server consolidation can lead to the more efficient use of hardware. Traditional x86 servers can now be replaced easily with rack-based alternatives such as the PowerEdge range from Dell. The compact chassis and server components make consolidation of hardware an ideal option for small businesses that want to reclaim space, yet give their businesses future expansion options without substantial investment in new server hardware.
Server consolidation can make a valuable contribution to reducing costs, but it has to be managed correctly to ensure the resulting server platform can deliver the service your business needs today and in the future.