Study: 30 Percent of Servers Are 'Comatose'

Those systems are using energy but doing almost no work.

One of the fundamental promises of virtualization -- maybe the fundamental promise -- is greater server efficiency through the pooling of resources. Instead of having servers taking up valuable rack space and energy to run a single app or OS, only to be barely used, virtualization allows multiple apps and OSes on a single server. In theory, those servers will operate closer to capacity, and not waste their processors, memory and storage.

But even in an era in which 75 percent of workloads have been virtualized, new research indicates that there's still a significant number of dormant servers out there.

A study by Anthesis Group and Stanford researcher Jonathan Koomey revealed that 30 percent of physical servers are "comatose," defined as being powered on, but having "not delivered information or computing services in six months or more."

10 Million Comatose Servers
That adds up to about 10 million comatose servers worldwide, including standalone servers, the Anthesis press release stated. It also includes servers hosting virtual machines as part of a virtual environment.

The analysis data was provided by TSO Logic, a vendor of energy efficiency software. "The 10 million estimated comatose servers translates into at least $30 billion in datacenter capital sitting idle globally," according to the release.

Megawatts Wasted
The figures cited in the research support the findings from another study, done in 2012 by the Uptime Institute. In that survey, about 20,000 comatose servers were identified, and shutting them down saved about 5MW of IT load. "Applying these savings to the potential comatose servers worldwide could yield more than 4GW of combined IT and infrastructure load reduction," Anthesis stated in its report.

Dr. Koomey, described as "a researcher, consultant, and lecturer on the energy and environmental impacts of technology," was quoted as saying that too many companies aren't aware of the problem, and are wasting resources as a result:

"In the 21st century, every company is an IT company, yet far too little attention is given to IT inefficiencies, and to the need for widespread changes in how IT resources are built, provisioned, and managed."

The Uptime Institute certifies datacenters for operational and management efficiencies, performance and reliability through its "Tier Certifications."

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.


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