How cloud technology could cause even bigger problems with server sprawl

While cloud technology has many benefits, it can unfortunately also cause SMEs bigger problems with administration and lack of control of their servers

How cloud technology could cause even bigger problems with server sprawl

Even though I’m not that old, I can still say that things were different when I took my first steps into the world of IT. It was pretty straight forward: every company had a server with some directly attached storage. You’d know where the server was physically and you could even turn it on and off with a quaint little green button. If you ever needed to access it, you could normally do so with a monitor directly attached to the rack.

However, things have changed over the years. Servers have gotten bigger, directly attached storage went to the increasingly popular storage area networks and complexity dropped. And with each change things became easier, cheaper and created more capacity for growth and flexibility. Then virtualisation came into play with the rise of virtual machines (VM), enabling us to chop down physical servers into many more digital ones. Suddenly a physical machine could host more than 100 VMs depending on it size. This was fantastic because it meant that everyone in the entire company could have their own VM and install what they wanted on it. In some cases they could even have several VMs, one for each project. For all intents and purposes, VMs seemed to be a panacea for our corporate ills.

While we were understandably excited about the evolution of the technology, it unfortunately lead to us facing new hurdles to tackle. Chief among them was the problem of server sprawl, which is when servers take up more space and use more resources than what can be justified by their workload. Yes, the technology had enabled businesses to have more flexibility. But it had come with a price: it meant that the administration and management of those VMs proved difficult to implement and maintain. Even though the technology was supposed to create ultimate flexibility, the reality was that businesses often ended up having an IT estate where nobody really knew anything. Nobody seemed to know if a VM could be shut down or if it was still being used. 

Now cloud technology is on the horizon and is promising to solve all our problems. However, it could also lead to more trouble than it’s worth unless the IT department takes care to get it right. Cloud technology means that virtualisation is no longer constrained by physical footprint, enabling IT to potentially spin up vast waves of infrastructure with a few clicks of a button. The problem is that your IT department might not be the ones doing the clicking. The result is that is that server sprawl will continue to increase but at a more alarming rate and with less control for to those who need to manage it.

To make the best use of cloud technology and to avoid losing control, companies must have a  focused strategy and complementary set of tools to manage its infrastructure be it on-premises or in the cloud. If you’re looking to utilise cloud technology, you must consider how you will monitor your assets both from a resource and lifecycle perspective. While this might not be the sexy side of cloud technology, it’s absolutely necessary to ensure your estate is effectively managed.

This article comes courtesy of Phil Brown, director of cloud strategy at Red Stack Tech, the company offering cloud software for organisations to future proof business need


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