How to reduce infrastructure complexity with servers
A look at the trends around physical servers, their role in the data centre and why reducing infrastructure complexity is key.
Server sprawl is not an uncommon problem for enterprise IT managers. Many organisations grow organically, meaning new servers and applications are often deployed ad-hoc in reaction to a new problem or need. That’s why some organisations now have hundreds of servers that are either underutilised, or key servers that need to be managed in a cumbersome or unique fashion as they reside outside of policy-based tools.
Is virtualisation the only solution?
Virtualisation has been seen by many as a way of solving both issues, but there are still large estates of systems – especially mission critical line of business applications – that reside on bare metal server clusters.
In some cases, sensitive and highly-tuned applications need special consideration around hardware and deployment scenario. This can lead to a more a more complex operating environment, with less reliability and more costs in terms of people and equipment. It’s unsurprising then that the server market continues to struggle to find growth.
You need to move beyond the initial server sell.
Despite this trend, overall systems value grew by 9%. Rather than the popularity of servers diminishing entirely, this market change suggests people buying servers are looking for those that have a greater capability to meet more complex workload needs.
After all, the benefits of servers and hardware shouldn’t be overlooked as your customers begin to think about their data centres. For customers looking for a scale out platform, discrete servers are often a better bet than HCI or dedicated server/storage/networking components.
For channel partners engaged in server sales, there is an overarching driver to go further up the stack and gain some of the more lucrative value-added sales. There is an argument that partners should be selling servers as part of a greater platform – whether this is just virtualised or fully clouded. You need to be able to position the server as a cost-effective means of adding CPU, storage and network to these platforms, without the need for forklift upgrades.
You and your customers can capitalise on third party tools.
With the growth of orchestration and provisioning tools, you need to be able to aggregate storage and networking resources in a way that suits your customer’s requirements. You should invest in skills and training for you and your team to gain a deeper understanding of deployment architectures that can turn discreet IT resources into more fluid, scalable pools.
By expanding your portfolio with a whole host of third party tools, you can help your customers to manage their virtualised environments. How does the server sell come into this? These tools can offer a value upsell to complement a server consolidation or rationalisation project.
What role do servers play in a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI)?
Although HCI is still a relatively new concept, it is worth considering as an option for customers that are largely virtualised and are complaining of server sprawl. After all, physical servers will still be around for a long time.
“HCI moves us back towards a mainframe-style, everything-in-one-box approach with everything, including software, running within that box; aggregated commodity servers keep us away from what would appear to be the nirvana of such a system.” - Clive Longbottom
The fear with wholesale adoption of HCI expressed by some is vendor lock-in, as well as the the need to learn new and potentially unfamiliar skills sets. However using commodity servers to extend an HCI environment, maybe with less commodity high speed interconnects to provide required performance, could provide a happy medium. Again, servers in their different capacities can minimise infrastructure complexity for you customers.
What is clear is that enterprises will be buying servers for the foreseeable future although the way they are deployed will change. To stay relevant, you need to be able to talk to your customers comfortably and with authority about their wider IT strategy. As a trusted advisor, you will need to align your skills and knowledge to servers that meet the diverse workloads and current appetite for change in the market.
- Server sales are diminishing but the value of the sales are increasing. Thanks to third party tools and value-added sales, you can move beyond the initial server sale and offer a greater service to your customers.
- Your customers will still be looking for projects around servers, based on the historical problem of server sprawl. Whether that’s a consolidation or rationalisation project, you need to keep that option open to your customers.
- Virtualisation and HCI might be the big trends for now, but don’t forget that your customer's servers are the building blocks of any environment they choose to work in.