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IT shops run a reality check on server consolidation

IT shops run a reality check on server consolidation

While vendors claim users can score big gains from server consolidation, users say there is still a long way to go.

ACI Glass Packaging IT manager Michael McNeil knows that vendors are right when they say consolidation can save you money, but says it can also cause big problems.

"Your CPU speed can suffer, and if the server goes down then there are major problems," McNeil said.

"There is some truth in what vendors say, that if you have fewer servers then less can go wrong, but then again if you have just one server then that's one point of failure and that would be my biggest issue."

McNeil has resisted the push to consolidate, simply because "it costs a lot of money".

"But in the future we are considering running something Linux-based, but that's much further down the track," McNeil said.

"At the moment we're a heavy Novell site."

BAE Systems Australia IT manager Mathew Pearson has just overseen the upgrade of four of the organization's servers, with another three still to go. "This mainly involved the replacement of hardware," Pearson said.

Pearson is sceptical when it comes to vendors pushing consolidation, claiming that many IT vendors think one server will fit any kind of organization. "These vendors sell server consolidation as something that it's not," Pearson said.

"I have no doubt that there are hidden extras, because to sell the server by itself is one thing, but to sell the complete package is another issue all together."

As for Autoliv Australia IT manager Scott Grinter, he simply refuses to believe the whole server consolidation tale.

"I think we're no longer getting to the point where servers are burning out, they last a lot longer now," Grinter said.

"Server consolidation can save an organization money, but cash flow can be a problem, because you need the money in the first place to consolidate."

Reality bites

If the value of server consolidation haunts IT managers at night, it is not without good reason according to corporate information services manager for global engineering firm GHD, Trevor Hazlewood.

While Hazelwood is always keen to achieve efficiencies, but part of the problem is that consolidating enterprise software is far trickier and less uniform than many vendors suggest.

Hazlewood said GHD has a distributed network topography and puts two server in each office.

"We're heavily into Lotus Notes and Novell NetWare," Hazlewood said, adding that the client-heavy nature of engineering IT places plenty of demands on existing technology, let alone trying to consolidate.

"One problem is that large file sizes that can range from 200 megabytes to several gigabytes do not lend themselves to traditional LAN/WAN environments spread across numerous continents."

However, Hazlewood is still eying Linux, well aware of the open source push from IBM and Novell. But he wants to see it work first, rather than play guinea pig.

He said Linux is a consolidation solution but has issues to deal with in file pathing when running Domino and NetWare on a single server.

"Both IBM and Novell are in the open source space... but none of them are flying the flag saying this is how you do it."


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