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Study Reveals that Virtual Machines, Not Just Physical Servers, Are Comatose

Posted in: News releases

Emeryville, CA – April 3, 2017 – Anthesis, a global sustainability consultancy, today announced new findings regarding enterprise server utilization. Building on an earlier study, the expanded research was conducted by Stanford University’s Jonathan Koomey and Jon Taylor of Anthesis, using analytics from TSO Logic, developers of a data-driven platform that provides visibility into IT compute and application delivery.

About two years ago, the team found that 30 percent of sampled enterprise servers were zombies or comatose — that is, they showed no signs of useful compute activity for six months or more. The follow-up analysis, conducted with a much larger sample of servers, used the same methodology, however, in addition to assessing physical servers, it also looked at virtual machines (VM) running on hypervisors.

The new findings show improvements, as well as an alarming wake-up call. On the upside: when an enterprise acted to remove physical zombies when presented with evidence of the problem’s magnitude, they were able to reduce the amount from 30 percent to eight percent in just one year. On the downside: new data shows that some 30 percent of VMs are zombies, demonstrating that the same discovery, measurement, and management challenges that apply to physical servers also apply to VMs.

While few companies can identify them, zombie servers pose a costly problem for data centers. The ability to eliminate them can result in considerable capital and operational savings when one takes into account resources needlessly wasted on power, hardware, licenses, maintenance, staffing, and floor space. It can also improve data center security, since zombie servers are much less likely to have the latest security updates.

“Many experts believe that virtualization is a silver bullet for achieving higher utilization,” said Jonathan Koomey, a lecturer in Earth Systems at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences. “Our results contradict that belief. The data show that almost one-third of the capital allocated to VMs is generating zero monetary return, which is especially troubling since hypervisors tend to be more expensive than standard servers,” he added.

The study confirms that the issue is still not being adequately addressed. New data indicates that one-quarter to one-third of data center investments are tied up with zombie servers — both physical and virtual. “Virtualization without improved measurement technologies and altered institutional practices is not a panacea,” said the Anthesis Group’s Jon Taylor. “Without visibility into the scale of these wasted resources, the problem will continue to bedevil the data center industry,” he concluded.

To read the full findings: click here

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About Anthesis
Anthesis Group is a specialist global consultancy founded on the belief that commercial success and sustainability go hand in hand. The group offers commercially driven sustainability strategies underpinned by technical experience and delivered by innovative collaborative teams across the world.

About TSO Logic
TSO Logic delivers analytics and algorithmic decisions for transforming enterprise compute. The company’s platform provides unprecedented visibility into IT compute and application delivery, plus actionable analytics for improving performance, cutting costs, and transforming environments into ideal future states.

Andrea Majorki
604.424.4150 ext. 107

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