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Turbonomic Blog

3.6 Million Zombie Servers, 1 BIG Energy Footprint

Posted by Galen Farrar on Oct 30, 2015 6:30:32 AM

It’s hard to find a data center today that doesn’t run at least a few servers with 0% utilization across all KPIs. These “zombie” servers are prevalent in nearly all data centers and take up unused space. Awareness of these dormant servers has risen for larger companies in the industry, but for the vast majority of data centers around the world, this is not exactly a tier-1 priority issue.


Zombie Servers Are Expensive

Just because these servers aren’t running anything and utilizing the resources allocated to them doesn’t mean they don’t cost anything to keep up and running. The cost of running these servers emerges on a large scale. Data centers that are keeping these zombie servers up and running are cooling them in conjunction with the rest of their infrastructure. This means that energy is being spent to cool the hardware of data centers when the hardware is in a dormant, stand-by state. The Wall Street Journal published an article that illustrates just how much energy is wasted on these zombie servers. In short, there are about 3.6 million zombie servers in the United States that draw about 1.44 gigawatts of energy; that’s enough to power 1,152,000 households.

In order to reduce this number, data centers need to be more aware of the servers that are active and also what is running on these active servers. Companies such as Google, Facebook, eBay and Microsoft have made significant changes and actively decommission dormant servers. According to the National Geographic, the main focus should be on the rest of the industry, which makes up about 95% of the United States’ electricity usage. Running a more efficient data center and increasing the utilization of the hardware is the essential building block towards reducing energy waste throughout the global IT industry.

More Servers ≠Performance

The main reason why hardware is underutilized is due to the misconception that more available space assures performance of the applications running on those servers by ensuring the resources are available for consumption. The fact of the matter is that the environment is going to be in its most performant state by using only the resources that are required, not by over-provisioning resources. In reality, performance issues can be a side-effect of over-provisioning and allowing balloon drivers to inflate. Ballooning can easily lead to swapping, which can cause significant performance hits by the end user.

Allocating just the right resources has performance and efficiency benefits. VMTurbo does exactly this—continuously matching application workload demands to the underlying infrastructure to assure performance, while maximizing efficiency. In doing so, the software will identify the dormant servers in a data center and will recommend archiving them, reducing the data center’s footprint and cutting costs.

Look out for these zombie servers as you go out trick-or-treating this weekend! All treats, no tricks with VMTurbo.

reclaiming resources meme

Topics: Servers and Hardware

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