Power Management Firm Tackles Virtual Server Sprawl

Virtual machines aren’t free – and 1E says it has the power to bring them under control

Hardware efficiency vendor 1E is tackling virtual servers in the latest release of its software which aims to help users shut down virtual machines that are wasting resources.

Although users have embarked on virtualisation in order to make their IT more efficient, in fact the process has spawned – or preserved in virtual form – a lot of servers which are no earthly good to anyone, says 1E. The company reckons £15 billion is wasted every year on physical or virtual servers that are not doing any “useful work” – that are just ticking over with a system management overhead.

Some users virtualise dormant servers

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“Sixty-five percent of users have actually virtualised an unused server,” said Andy Hawkins, product manager at 1E, so instead of reducing clutter, the virtualisation process just moves the waste into the virtual environment.

The problem, he says, is that when they virtualise, they simply do not have the time or ability to determine whether a server is in active use.

Many companies use CPU load to check whether a server is active, but it might be simply running system tasks or anti-virus, and not be running any actual application software. With the first server edition of NightWatchman, 1E gives users the ability to measure whether the server is running applications and turn it off with confidence if not. The new version extends that to virtual machines.

“There is a feeling that virtual machines are free,” said Hawkins, “but they use energy, need an OS licence and application licences and have a labour cost.” Even if it is not running and parked on a disk somewhere, a VM’s disk space costs money, he said, adding up to a large hidden cost of running servers.

The virtual machine may cost less than a physical server, but if it is “lost in the fog”, then IT staff can’t “declutter” their virtual servers, warned Hawkins. Nightwatchman will help them put a price on each VM, and also identify the ones to switch off, he said.

“A recent study we commissioned revealed 84 percent of Server Managers are concerned about or managing virtual sprawl,” said Hawkins. The ability to create new servers often leads to a huge demand, and a vast number of servers which are used for a short while, then left wasting power and eroding the benefits of virtualisatoin, he said.

Using this sort of software would be a good way to meet the CRC regulations which will eventually require all Britain’s largest energy users to cut their power consumption by five percent every year, he said.