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Server Consolidation Makes For Thick, Robust, Scalable Environments One such industry innovator is a company called VMware. VMware has been developing

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    Server Density and Consolidation (revised) December 28, 2004


    Are You DENSE?


    Server Consolidation Makes For Thick, Robust, Scalable Environments

    Density: the distribution of a quantity (as mass, electricity, or energy) per unit

    usually of space

Are you dense?

It’s okay if you are, you know.

Because in today’s network-driven, interconnected and interoperable world, thicker IS

    better. And the denser you are, the better you’ve adapted to and acquired the technology

    that packs more power into less space, reduces managerial time, and can result in

    increased productivity and true economic value to both you and your organization.

But before you can fatten up on the benefits of a dense network environment, you have to

    ask and answer a number of questions. In fact, your understanding of these answers will

    play a key role in determining just how valuable your commitment to density will be.

In this article, we’ll take a quick look back at how technological demand led to the supply

    of a new way of consolidating, accessing and housing information technology. We’ll

    explore Blade Servers and Virtualization as two of the key considerations every

    enterprise must make when considering a broad consolidation move. And finally, we’ll

    touch base on exactly how to make the move, once a decision to consolidate, or “get

    dense”, has been made.

Consolidation: Driven By Technological Need

The digital age began to truly define itself in the mid-nineties, with new and exciting

    technologies that were more powerfuland more affordablethan ever before. CTOs, CIOs and IT Managers were being courted with server technologies boasting high

    performance enhancements that both excited and amazed them. And software developers

    finally had the landscape to truly set their creative imaginations free. Add to that the

    explosion of the Internet, a global force in both information and commerce available to

    every computer-bearing individual on the planet, and the possibilities seemed endless.

But monumental opportunity oftentimes comes with equally monumental challenges, and

    the digital age was (and is) no different. Specifically, it became less of a question of

    what do we do with all this newfound power” and more of a question of “how do we put

    this power to work for us…and TURN a profit. What, in other words, was going to be the “Economic Business Value (EBV)” of our technological power?

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    While our intentions were goodwhile we promised a level of business value that

    approximated the level of technology investmentthe reality of our newfound power

    was that that many of the concepts and technologies offered during this period had other

    dependencies like scalability, manageability, and available information center space.

    These dependencies were the keys to enabling the complete and practical use of the

    technology to achieve the full business benefit; to determining a true EBV. These would

    have to be solved if we were to realize significant returns on technology investment in the

    21st century.

So are there solutions now? The answer is a resounding “yes.” As you will see, they

    walk hand in hand with becoming as dense as possible.

Getting Dense: Asking The Right Questions

    Imagine being called “dense” by your manager or co-worker…and smiling broadly as a result. That’s how the times are changing when it comes to consolidation—the denser

    you are, the better you are.

Achieving density is the journey most CTOs, CIOs and Data Center managers are

    embarking on. And while it is true this is often referred to as “consolidation”, server

    consolidation is truly an umbrella term describingyou guessed itdensity.

So what technologies should you be exploring on your quest for density? How does that

    technology relate to the environment in which you are currently operating? And how do

    you plan for a migration from your current state, to a denser, thicker, more robust


    Technology Gets Dense: Two Exciting Choices

You can’t look at dense environments without considering two prominent technologies:

    Blade Server and Virtualization. Each is exciting in its own way. Let’s begin with blade


A blade server, simply defined, is a chassis-based infrastructure, housing a computer on a

    card or board (referred to as the blade). These blades are fully equipped. They sport the

    latest Intel processor technologies, are available in dual or quad form factors, can hold

    one to two disk drives (ATA or SCSI) and have plenty of ram and cache to service your

    front-end and application server groups. But don’t allow this simplification to mislead

    you into underestimating the positive impact blades can have in your environment.

For one, consider the space you save when you offer similar performance in a more

    compact package. Imagine if you will, an environment housing 96 two-processor servers.

    How many racks would you need traditionally? What would the power requirements be?

    How may power connections would there be? How much floor space would be utilized?

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     Now consider this example. With some form factors offered by manufacturers (such as

    Hewlett-Packard) just one 42U rack can hold up to 192 processors, lowering space,

    power and cooling requirements significantly.

    These are just the obvious physical benefitsand only the beginning of what blades can do for your density.

Blade servers also offer functional improvements like Hot Swappable and Failover,

    making them more versatile and more available. Blades have the ability to hot swap and

    failover to an available blade if a failure occurs on any given blade housed in the chassis.

    Blade servers can be used in SAN or NAS configurations. And if this all sounds really

    cool…well...that’s because it really is.

So what’s the catch? No technology is perfect. If there is a downside to blade servers,

    the first consideration would be the disk drives. As we learned earlier, they hold only one

    to two drives. In many cases that is plenty, but when the environment isn’t SAN, NAS or

    an external storage array becomes a likely better answer. Another drawback would be

    when the application dictates quad processors, the density aspect changesmeaning you

    house fewer blade servers in a chassis.

The last consideration with blade servers you may want to take into account is application

    oriented. Blades scale extremely well from a machine level perspective, but when the

    application itself needs to be scaled, things become much more challengingand

    sometimes downright impossible.

Virtually Speaking: Split Personalities For Existing Technology

    Looking for even more density? It’s “virtually” at your fingertips. In the IT world, virtualization is the ability to carve a single machine into multiple virtual machines. And

    while this definition is a simplification, essentially this technology enables a single

    machine to act as many, or actually become many, as resource need demands.

Virtualization is an emerging technology that is maturing and being adopted at a very

    rapid rate. Why? Because the idea of dynamically utilizing available or existing

    resourcesand allocating those resources on the flycan truly deliver a utilization and TCO bang for larger machines. And virtualization can also have a significant impact on

    one’s Intel environment.

A perfect example of a machine that would be extremely well suited for supporting this

    kind of environment would be IBM’s xSeries, the x445 and x455. These are machines

    that can really scale. In the case of the x445, you can be looking at 2 to 32 processors in

    one machine, while the x455 scales from 2 to16 processors. In both cases, there are gigs

    upon gigs of available memory coupled with blistering bus speeds.

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    Now consider the provisioning possibilities at your fingertips if you had the ability to

    virtually control and allocate these powerful machines differently as your needs

    demandedmeaning, neither machine would have a defined purpose, but would change

    continually based on your intelligent use of virtualization software and infrastructure.

    One machine can virtually become three machines. Or five. Or ten. The bottom line?

    You now have the ability to scale the machine itself along with scaling the peripheral

    machines…that work with the original machine.

    Or consider this scenario: What would it mean to you if one of your DBAs needed 2

    machines immediately for application test and Q/A and you could deliver those

    machines with the appropriate amount of storage in 2 hours or less? With virtualization,

    you didn’t need to carry the inventory, or do any old machine repurposing, or the worst-

    case scenario, get an approval to buy two new machines. A virtual architecture has

    enormous appeal and upside.

    Obviously, the hardware alone cannot provide virtualization automatically. There are

    products in the marketplace that specialize in this flexible and dynamic marriage of

    hardware and software. One such industry innovator is a company called VMware.

    VMware has been developing server virtualization technology for several years, and in

    fact have become the market leader. EMC Corporation recognized the vast potential of

    their enterprise so much, they gave VMware a “virtual” Good Housekeeping seal of

    approval…by purchasing the company!

    Virtualization promises incredible advances in data center consolidation for the

    foreseeable futurea way to maximize the power that true density brings to the

    consolidation table.


    “I think it [the future] is largely going to be defined by virtualization of

    resources…virtualization at the storage level, virtualization at the processor and

    memory level, and then finally virtualization at the application level. So it’s a

    datacenter in the classic glass house sense of, how do we better utilize the resources we

    have, how do we better manage it, how do we drive out costs and complexity?”

    - Hal Stern, Vice President and CTO for Sun Services, InfoWeek 11-5-04

    Choosing Technology For Your Environment In a technological utopia, infrastructure would rule the IT world. In the world we all work

    in however, it doesn’t. Businesses are run based on profits. Applications drive the economic side of that equation. Infrastructure (the servers and the storage) support the

    applications driving the profits. In most environments, the challenge will be to cost-

    effectively incorporate both technologies to maximize profit potential and streamline

    workflow. You must find the lines of demarcation between the available technology and

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    the characteristics of your environment based on the requirements of the applications you IntuITion Volume 1, Issue 2 (V.1.2)

    needall within the budgetary parameters set by your organization. In short, ask Server Density and Consolidation (revised) December 28, 2004

    yourself what is it you need to do, and how best can you do it using dense consolidation


    It’s Time To Migrate. Now what? Like any intended big move, the magic (and mystique) of the endeavor is in the planning.

    These conversion projects are not to be taken lightly. Many IT adventurers fall prey to

    insufficient planning. A lack of planning leads to poor execution, which, in turn, usually

    results in failed results and a trip back to the drawing board.

How do those plans come to fruition? In SARCOM’s case, you only need to reference

    documentation of a process called Project Chartering. (intuITtion, Summer Edition, 2004)

    This is a consistent planning methodology deployed across all IT projects delivered by

    SARCOMa methodology that helps you askand answerthe questions that:

    - are specific to your IT needs

    - recognize your budgetary constraints

    - quantify your current state of operation.

    - point the way toward your desired state of operation

    Remember the EBVEconomic Business Value? Project Chartering helps to maximize this value by creating a transparent and measurable plan of attack. This is important

    because in any migration or change, even to a beneficial dense state, there are many

    players involved, each with diverse requirements, desires and applications that have

    limitations and resource constraints. Couple that with the occasional distrust of shared

    environments, and a legacy-bred “this is mine” mindset toward existing infrastructure, and it’s pretty easy to see that writing it all down and planning it out is the best and

    smartest course of action.

Where Do We Go From Here?

    Availability. Scalability. Manageability. Profitability. These are our ongoing challenges

    as virtual, blade-driven environments become our collective standard of living. All the

    while, we will still be charged to do more with less, offer capacity on demand, give five

    nines of availability, manage costs not people, and a host of other platitudes that still

    apply, no matter what.

So are you dense, or what?

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