Watch out for Virtual Server Sprawl


I previously shared some of the benefits of implementing virtualization, as well as tips on how to prepare for virtualization. Now, while it is true that virtualization does bring a large number of tangible benefits to the table, it is important to recognize that there is always a downside or two for every new technology.


I think Boeing computing infrastructure architect Jeff Thompson nailed one of these potential pitfalls on the head when he warned that virtual server sprawl can eliminate any cost savings realized from virtualization.


As reported by Network World, Thompson spoke at a Gartner conference where he presented a hypothetical cost model based on his experiences at Boeing. From a baseline of 6,000 physical servers, Thompson showed that virtualization can save a staggering $28 million over a period of five years. Impressive as the sum might appear, Thompson showed that a growth of just 50 percent on server demand is sufficient to render the virtualization project unprofitable.


Indeed, all it takes is the absence of a proper strategy for virtual server sprawl to materialize and swiftly spiral out of control. The reason is simple: With virtual servers easy to spin up, it is inevitable that users will start asking for large numbers of new virtual machines. After all, they no longer have to justify buying new hardware or factor their costs into annual budgets. Before you know it, your organization would have hit or even bypassed the 50 percent mark.


Essentially, it is up to the IT department to hold the line. This might be harder than it sounds, especially for SMBs that tend to be flatter in their organizational hierarchies. For one, C-level and other senior executives will need to learn to hold off on their demands, and let the IT manager or senior system administrator be the arbitrator on whether a new virtual machine is really needed.


Of course, there is no point in imposing a blanket ban on the creation of any new virtual machines, either. This would be failing to leverage the advantages allowed by virtualization to quickly set up affordable new servers to help propel your business forward.


With proper tracking and judicious management, though, there is no reason why virtual server sprawl should happen.