The economic downturn of the last few years has greatly affected IT budgets and operations. Although the 1990s witnessed significant growth in IT spending and a great expansion of IT operations, the last few years have seen a scaling back of IT projects and a new focus on tightly controlling IT costs. One of the ways administrators have dealt with this new reality has been to implement server consolidation, in which multiple services are combined on fewer machines.

More than half of the IT professionals who responded to our recent server hardware survey reported that their companies have consolidated servers in the past two years, as shown in Figure A.


Figure A

Data center changes
We also asked about some of the ways that companies are changing the makeup of their data centers and the methods they are using to consolidate servers. Although it isn’t a surprise, it’s interesting to note that 39 percent of respondents said they’re moving away from the kinds of proprietary systems that used to dominate IT. Figure B shows that many companies are migrating proprietary hardware/software systems to commodity hardware running Windows and/or Linux.

Figure B

It was also interesting to see the extent to which companies are using newer technologies, such as server appliances and blade servers, to control the cost of data center hardware, as illustrated in Figure C and Figure D.

Figure C

Figure D

As you can see, these technologies have gained some momentum, but they are certainly not widespread.

Although IBM and other companies have breathed new life into mainframes in recent years and touted these big-iron systems as viable options for server consolidation, our survey shows that few respondents are using mainframes for consolidation (Figure E). On the other hand, few respondents reported that they were moving away from mainframes to smaller, clustered systems.

Figure E

End sum
It would appear that administrators engaged in server consolidation are mostly taking servers of similar operating systems and combining services on fewer machines. Smaller numbers of admins are taking advantage of new technologies like server appliances and blade servers, while very few appear to be taking the bait from IBM and consolidating on mainframes.