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Technology Corridor

The next big trend is to make network resources more interchangeable and less expensive.
Fortnightly Magazine - March 15 2003

average company's 50 percent utilization rate. To Crenshaw, it's a good deal: "It's basic economics. [It's better] to be spending $1 and getting a 90 percent return instead of a 50 percent return," he notes.

No More Fiddling With Servers

In today's infrastructure, companies need servers dedicated to Web functions, network functions, particular applications, e-mail, and more. Most servers have a hefty amount of unused space in them-Forrester says on the order of 80 percent, while Crenshaw pegs the rate at closer to 50 percent. Whatever the number, it's not a high optimization rate. What drives such an inefficient, not to mention expensive, use of server resources is the necessity to maintain capacity for peak demand.

As Gillett says, "it's provisioning for maximum usage, even though [the capacity] is only used for a microsecond a year."

Until recently, little could be done to increase server utilization rates. While a company may have had 50 Web servers with a lot of idle capacity, it would take days of "fiddling and diddling" to rearrange software so accounting could borrow the Web servers, Gillett says. Rapid server provisioning promises to change that by automating changes in server configuration, transforming Web servers into accounting servers in mere minutes.

TXU has moved in this direction, with its recent purchase of four Sun Fire 15K servers and a bevy of X-series servers from IBM. The Sun servers are mainframe-class servers, Crenshaw says, but unlike traditional servers, they can be partitioned into various regions. Multiple business applications can run on those servers, he says, meaning that when accounting is preparing for a quarterly close, it gets more space, yet when the trading desk needs more server capacity for a bid week, that same resource can be reallocated there.

By not buying servers that will be underutilized, companies could save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. While servers like IBM's X-series servers go for around $500 each, mainframe-class servers like Sun's Fire 15K start at more than $900,000. Putting off the purchase of even one mainframe-class server makes an immediate difference to the IT bottom line.


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