Marching Orders

Consolidate Servers Now—or Pay Forever!

Microsoft's claims notwithstanding, consolidation may be in your immediate future.

You’ve read the articles and analyst reports. And plenty of vendors have tried to get you to pony up big bucks in honor of the concept. Now I’m here to tell you the pundits and server peddlers are right. It pays to consolidate servers, and do so in a dramatic way.

You might not need to spend as many thousands (okay, hundreds of thousands) of dollars and throw out quite as many old servers as IBM, Dell and HP reps strongly suggest. Yet the fundamental premise is absolutely correct.

While server vendors claim it pays to consolidate, Microsoft is pushing IT to upgrade. Don’t blindly listen to Microsoft’s ROI claims. Windows Server 2003 and Exchange 2003 are not magical ROI elixirs. You can’t just install them and instantly save money and increase IT and end user productivity. You have to work (and spend money) to gain these benefits. And that means an upgrade should be done in conjunction with server consolidation.

Unfortunately, so many in IT just see server consolidation as a pain and don't bother. Often, IT will upgrade to Windows 2003 and Exchange 2003 (ideal candidates for serious consolidation), and not just keep all their current servers, but add a few more to boot. Talk about missing the point. This kind of upgrade is the purest form of drinking the Microsoft upgrade Kool Aid, except that Redmond actually advises IT to consolidate—no matter how much licensing revenue it sacrifices.

Meanwhile, penny-pinching IT pros try to keep servers going with duct tape and a few swift kicks. You probably know the results all too intimately. Run out of steam? Go on the ‘Net, and buy a new box cheap enough to slip under the CFO radar. Problem solved. Yeah, right. Now you have to network the darn thing. That ain’t too bad, and the good mood comes back. Weeks later, the real burden kicks in. That dirt-cheap new server has to be managed—OS, hard disk, apps and all. Now multiply that by dozens, hundreds or thousands, and you see the real problem.

Believe me, you know far more about this than I do. Except I am passionate about server consolidation and have the rostrum. I’m not telling you how to do it, I’m just telling you why.

Be aggressive in talking to your CFO, CIO and staff about reducing server count, increasing uptime and performance, reducing admin time (so they can focus on more important technologies that offer competitive advantage) and the ROI that all this brings. Feel free to talk about how such consolidation is the number one way to justify moving to Windows 2003 and Exchange 2003.

I’ve talked to too many IT pros that are simply treading water. They or their admins spend the bulk of the day fixing problems that directly rise from unnecessary server and network complexity.

In a future issue of REDMOND (you did hear that MCP Magazine will become REDMOND Magazine in October, didn’t you? If not, read Chief Concerns), we’ll tell you exactly how to develop a server consolidation plan, and precisely how to justify the plan to your boss. I’m really just here to give that swift kick in the pants that deep down you know you need.

The bottom line is that anything IT pros can do to simplify things—building a simpler server infrastructure, a simpler storage infrastructure, a simpler network infrastructure, a simpler wireless infrastructure and a simpler applications infrastructure—is good. Not good, great.

Spend the time (and money) now to simplify everything for the future. Then you and your staff can spend newly acquired free time playing with technologies that could offer an advantage over the competition, and make IT a true hero.

Now which is more fun: plugging holes in your leaky server dike or investigating state-of-the-art applications that your competitor (who’s also busy plugging holes) hasn’t even heard of yet? I thought so.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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