Spruce Up your Data Centre

The summer holidays can generally be a quiet time for some IT Pros, depending on the industry you work in, so I wondered if this would be a good time for a bit of a tidy up in the data centre.  The easy bit of that is to actually tidy up the physical environment such as cabling left lying around or temporarily put in place but has now become “live”.  Actually I would love to see some photos of server room chaos, and I am sure Sara can organise a T-Shirt for the messiest.

What I actually meant was tidying up the data on the servers. At the highest level you might have whole test or evaluation setups that you don’t really need anymore which might make up several VMs.  There might be individual random VM on there as well. The challenge is can they be stopped and archived and that depends on what the owner feels about them, and so a key technique for efficient data centre management is chargeback or at least showback, as waste is a lot lower when you are paying for something!

VMs are very easy to snapshot/checkpoint and hopefully you are aware of the impact of rolling back/reverting to a checkpoint on any given VM, and if you can’t revert to that checkpoint is there any point in keeping it?

Then there is a question of what is in those VMs, You might worry about whether they are all properly licensed, and actually if the licenses are expired is the VM any use anymore anyway?  You might also get some licenses back if you can’t shut redundant stuff down.

Looking at the software that’s on all those VMs,  are they patched and up to date?  Even if it’s a test setup that should be patched to a desired configuration to match the thing that you are testing which actually might be the application of a patch.

Then there is the data that’s on there: Is that dev, test or production data, and what protection should be accorded it?    The VM itself may well have backups inside it which could be redundant and hopefully you environment will let you reclaim space if you shrink VMs to reclaim that space.

Those are some of the problems you might want to address in your summer spruce up but how to find the problems in the first place?  In the Microsoft world there are a couple of tools:

  • System Center. If this is being used as intended then you’ll know some key things about your services, VMs and data..
    • Who owns them,
    • Are they compliant with your desired configurations for production, dev and  test.
    • What resources they are using and how close to any thresholds are they
    • What software they are running (I am assuming here you managing servers via Configuration Manager)

so you know where to start looking to clean things up, and possibly if you are using self service then VMs that are end of life will automatically be decommissioned

  • Microsoft Assessment & Planning Toolkit.  This is a free tool which you run as required against your data centre that  reports back what you have, and this can include non-Microsoft stuff as well.  You’ll need to give it various credentials for the discovery methods

The next thing is to ensure you have a good backup strategy and see then get rid of the deadwood safe in the knowledge you do have a backup.  Of course you might then want to revisit retention of the backup if no one notices that you got rid of loads of stuff.

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