Virtualizing ServersBy Bob Violino Print
Virtualization, green IT, and cloud computing are helping organizations transform their computing resources.
Imperial Sugar, in Sugar Land, Texas, is one of the nation’s largest processors and marketers of refined sugar. It began a virtualization project about five years ago, in part, to reduce the number of physical servers, says George Muller, vice president of supply chain, sales planning and IT.
“There was a proliferation of servers in the data centers: Web servers, network servers, database servers, production servers,” Muller says. “The client-server architecture caused [the servers] to multiply like rabbits.” Many of the servers were underutilized, he adds.
Through virtualization using software from VMware, Imperial Sugar reduced the number of servers from 131 to 96, and decreased its data center capital spending by about 45 percent a year. The company has also consolidated four data center facilities into one, reducing IT labor costs.
Another benefit is a lower energy cost. The company replaced some of its older servers with more energy-efficient blade servers from Hewlett-Packard, which helped reduce electricity and cooling costs. Muller says 75 percent of the physical servers in the data center are blade servers.
Imperial Sugar has begun migrating some applications—such as training and predictive maintenance systems—to public cloud services to further reduce its reliance on internal servers and the associated maintenance and support costs. “I think that’s one of the big advantages of the cloud today and why so many people are jumping on the bandwagon,” Muller says.
The company, like many others, has concerns about security in the public cloud. “But if it’s archictected correctly, the proper service-level agreements are in place, and you follow a strong and rigid checklist for [cloud] use from a security standpoint,” data should be secure, Muller says.
The current thinking about where to run applications has shifted dramatically with the advent of cloud services, and that’s had a huge impact on data centers, Muller says. In the past, “We would say, ‘We need to bring this [application] into the data center and figure out how much the hardware and software will cost,’” he says. “Now we think about which third-party hosting provider can run it for us over the Internet.”
Some applications and data, such as those involving finance, will remain inside for the foreseeable future, according to Muller. “But as we get more and more comfortable with [the cloud], I see us expanding it further,” he says. “My prediction is that we’re going to see 20 to 50 percent of data centers become extinct in the next five years.”
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