Green Networking: Using Virtual Servers

Scott Calonico

virtual server on computerSME IT infrastructures often grow in a predictable way. Companies start off with a single server, often running Windows Small Business Server, or perhaps just basic file and print services.

It’s not usually long before another server is required; to run a corporate database or another line-of-business application.

As time goes on, more boxes are needed – finance servers, document management servers and hardware to run door entry systems and CCTV cameras.

In the blink of an eye, the neat, tidy server room (or server corner, as is often the case is SME offices) turns into a messy jumble of cables, physical servers and UPS appliances.

At this point, customers usually start to moan. The servers are too noisy, cost too much to run and take up valuable office space.

This scenario isn’t ideal for the support provider either. All of these extra boxes provide more points of failure; more things to go wrong and cause stressful days. Surely there’s a better way?

The Virtualization Alternative

It’s truly unlikely that any SME needs its own mini server-farm.

Imagine, for example, a server running a small corporate database. Despite the software vendor insisting on an isolated server to run the solution, it probably runs at 1% CPU utilization all day. While it does so, it is green networkingincreasing client energy bills and not doing the environment any favors.

Using virtual servers can give MSPs the opportunity to rationalize these untidy, energy consuming server collections – and save their clients money in the process.

By using a virtualization product, it is easy to replace these individual servers with virtual servers. All that is then needed is one or two well-specified servers to do the work of several.

The money saved on buying numerous low-end servers and UPS devices can instead be spent on a high-quality core infrastructure with enterprise-grade features like hot-swap drives and redundant power supplies. One well-specified server will happily act as a finance server, database server and security server all at once.

Immediately this cuts a client’s carbon footprint and saves on energy bills. But it can also save on licensing…

Licensing for Virtual Environments

Companies using Microsoft technology have an additional, compelling reason to consider virtualization: Microsoft offer very attractive licensing terms for virtual servers.

For example, one server license for Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise permits a company to run up to four virtual instances. The next time a vendor demands a server for a new application, there needn’t be any additional expense at all provided a free license is available, along with a server with sufficient hardware resources to run an additional instance. You can even monitor virtual servers remotely to ensure they're up and running.

The scenario above is something of a “no-brainer” for forward-thinking companies. The fact that many firms have a desire to do all they can to protect the environment also makes the sales proposition an easy one for MSPs to present. MSPs without a current, green “angle” to their offerings would do well to see how they could incorporate one.