Is something feeding off the life force of your business, sapping it of strength and making the lives of your productive workers harder? How about the legacy infrastructure? Are there a few servers sitting around doing nothing on the company's dollar? Fortunately, it's easy to remedy. You just need to commit to cleaning up those power-suckers and focus on data centre management.

The cost of unused servers

‘Zombie’ servers – or servers that don't contribute anything to your business – are cluttering up data centres across Australia and around the world, and costing businesses billions of dollars.

In 2017, research into data centres found that a quarter of all physical servers and a third of all virtual servers had seen no activity for six months. According to one study, the aggregate cost of running these zombie servers is upwards of $30 billion USD.

These zombie servers are not just a drain on a businesses finances either. Unused servers may also represent a serious cyber security threat if they are not maintained and patched.

After a steep decrease in data centre spending in 2020, infrastructure spend in Australia is projected to increase by 6.5% in 2021 to $3 billion, according to research from Gartner.

With the economic turmoil of 2020 that drastically changed how we conduct business and how employees interact with their workplace, a sharp increase in cloud computing in Australia has once again shone a light on the importance of data centre and server management.

Identifying the undead

25-30% of servers have seen no activity in 6 months and cause a drain on company finances.

The first step towards unfettering your business from the shackles of these undead servers is by first identifying where the problem lies.

One of the main reasons why servers go to waste is from a simple accounting slip-up. Often this happens when a lightly commissioned server becomes a forgotten part of a spreadsheet somewhere. These servers are often commissioned to support increased application use, but as the need for that application diminishes, the server remains fully active but continues to sap power without being actively productive.

Without solid IT management, these types of servers can go on draining power and funds for years.

Finding the cure

Prevention is always better than cure. Follow these steps to weed out servers that are causing unnecessary drain.

  1. Take inventory.
    Taking inventory of all your physical equipment, along with its associated data and network connections, is a good place to start.
  2. Use a data centre monitoring tool to manage your infrastructure.
    Using a data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) tool will make life a LOT easier. These tools provide real-time monitoring and management options across your IT infrastructure, so you can identify any zombies early. DCIM tools can also begin analysing the data centre for issues, such as power draw, CPU utilisation, and network traffic.
  3. Rationalise your infrastructure.
    Now that you are accurately tracking your servers, it is time to start rationalising your infrastructure. The DCIM tool will help you better understand how your servers are functioning so you can rationalise what is needed and what is a drain.
  4. Consolidate what you already own.
    Businesses are constantly looking for ways to streamline, and one way to make data centres more efficient and effective is to consolidate them. Consolidating data centres is a great way to save money. One study found that organisations with a single data centre spend 10 per cent less on data centre operations than those with multiple data centres.

Australian Privacy Principles and global data sovereignty legislation is changing the way Australian businesses need to think about their servers and where and how they store their data. Identifying problem areas like zombie servers is a positive step forward in not just saving money, but also in securing data for a more protected network.  

Editor's note: this post was originally published in April 2016, and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness - March 2021.  

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