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It’s an age old problem. OK, not Stone Age-old, but one that’s been with us as long as servers have been around. And the issue is the very common situation where some of your boxes are overloaded while others are functioning at 20% capacity. Indeed, 30% capacity is typical for a single use server. It’s rather like an office where a small core of staff work their fingers to the bone while the others stand around the coffee machine gossiping all day. Come to think of it ……!!

Perhaps less provocatively, this is an IT version of the famous 80:20 rule – 20% of staff do 80% of the work, 20% of equipment causes 80% of the breakdowns etc etc
And the good news? The average cost of storage on servers is going down inexorably. And some more bad news? The sheer quantity of data you’re expected to store is growing even faster. It makes wasting storage space even more of a crime, really. Also, it’s not just your servers not working hard enough that you need to worry about. Over capacity means unnecessary power costs and demands on maintenance.

It’s all about balance

Of course, the obvious answer is to balance the load on your servers more equably. Silly you, didn’t think of that one, did you!! Known as server consolidation or convergence, this process involves centralising the data stored across multiple servers. The objective is to facilitate data backup and archiving, and minimise the time needed for users to access and store data. Sounds fair enough. And yet … and yet …

In practice, it’s not quite that easy. For a start, you may have dedicated single purpose servers such as email servers, printer servers, database servers etc etc. And whatever the infrastructure, with physical servers consolidation can be complex and time-consuming.

For many organisations, the key to simple and easy consolidation can be the V word - virtualisation. If you change to a configuration with multiple virtual servers hosted on a single physical server, the consolidation process becomes much easier. You can re-assign storage space on the basis of need much more quickly, conveniently and cost-effectively.

Three choices

When consolidating your storage, there are three main types of architecture to choose from:

  • NAS or Network Attached Storage. Here the hard drive storing the data has its own network address, and files and other data can be accessed or stored very quickly, as there is no bunch of client computers jockeying for service.
  • RAID or Redundant Array of Independent Disks. The data is spread across several disks, even though the array looks like a single hard drive. The benefits are a better balance of input/output, together with improved fault tolerance and minimised downtime and risk of data loss.
  • SAN or Storage Area Network. The most sophisticated set-up of the three, SAN uses fibre channel technology and offers high throughput and a centralised data source for many users over a wide geographic area. Data sharing and migration amongst serves is another benefit.

Significant advantages

Whichever option you choose, consolidation offers significant advantages. Hosting fewer physical boxes with a simplified infrastructure means easier maintenance, centralised management and optimum use of resources, with easier disk replication, data backup and server migration.

What’s more, as you’re hosting fewer boxes, it means you’re using less space in the data centre – with lower power/cooling/operating costs. Of course, your investment in hardware refresh and upgrade is reduced as well.

So what’s the verdict? Evaris believes storage consolidation is just one option businesses have for making better use of servers, disk space and IT budget. For more advice on all storage and server issues, contact Evaris by calling 0330 124 1245, or email sales@evaris.com.

Roberto.M

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