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Mid-Tiers: The Case For Consolidation

If you're a midrange company sporting anywhere from a couple hundred to 1,000 employees, odds are that you've built up quite a server presence over the years. And you've accumulated all the ancillary costs that come with that, too--the commitment of countless IT hours to configuration and maintenance, the cooling costs, the downtime if a key server goes down and the failover doesn't kick in, and more.

Might you be better off consolidating your servers into a lesser number of more powerful boxes that can handle multiple operating systems and their associated applications as well? Many server manufacturers are eager to convince you that the answer is "Yes," and now there's a fair amount of evidence to support the notion. Savings on hardware expenditures, electricity and cooling costs, and staff time are all components of a decision that more midrange companies are making to run operations on less server boxes.

"We're able with our Open POWER servers, for example, to offer benefits with consolidation that give our customers far more flexibility," said Kevin Dawson, senior marketing manager for IBM's Linux On POWER operation. "SMB customers have been able to cut costs and do different things than they could with a distributed setup, and they don't lose scalability if their needs change again."

The trend is strong: Worldwide customer revenue for server consolidation is expected to grow from $5.2 billion in 2003 to $8.5 billion by the coming year, according to industry research firm IDC, and a spring 2005 report by Gartner found that 60 percent of surveyed IT managers had a server consolidation project under way or planned.

There's little doubt that a successfully executed system consolidation can make a server administrator's life much easier. Among the advantages of consolidated systems are:

  • Simpler configuration, often down to a plug-and-play level.
  • Improved CPU efficiency, particularly on virtualized servers.
  • Reduced licensing costs for third-party applications.
  • Greater power efficiency and lessened heating costs.
  • Easier points of contact from distributed parts of the network back to the main data center.
  • And the ability to configure for multiple operating systems on one machine through virtualization, whether using embedded virtualization in operating systems such as AIX and other mainframe Unix packages, virtualization using the newly added Xen package in the kernels of such commercial packages as SUSE Linux from Novell or Red Hat Enterprise Linux, specific systems management packages such as VMware, or the newly improved virtualization capabilities of Windows Server 2003, which feature easier Unix cross-platform capabilities.
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