Is IT Sprawl Costing You Millions?


Picture of Rick DelgadoRick Delgado feels blessed to have had a successful career in the tech industry and has recently taken a step back to pursue his passion of writing. He's started doing freelance writing where he occasionally works with tech companies like Dell Computers. He enjoys writing about new technologies and how it can help us and our planet.

Businesses know all about the improvements a well-equipped IT infrastructure can bring to a company. Indeed, most organizations wouldn’t last long if they ignored the needs of their IT departments. That’s why businesses spend so many resources on ensuring IT departments are outfitted with the latest and greatest equipment. All that dedication, however, could have an unintended side effect that may be hurting IT’s abilities to perform well. This usually comes in the form of IT sprawl, where equipment like servers and virtual machines sit idle, doing nothing more than gobbling up energy and resources. IT sprawl isn’t some small problem. According to a recent study, an astounding 30 per cent of all servers located in data centers aren’t doing anything. They’re just there, taking up space and reflecting poorly on a company’s bottom line. More likely than not, your business falls into this same problem, and it could be costing you big time.

IT sprawl is a problem that’s easy for businesses to get into without even knowing it. After all, much of the equipment and technologies that IT uses now, in particular virtual machines, have become easy to adopt. If there’s a sudden need for your company to spin up more servers, you simply do it. The idea is a bit short-sighted, but it does make business sense at the time - meet the demands of today in order to satisfy customer needs. The IT sprawl problem usually manifests itself later on down the line. Part of the problem is caused by the difficulty of keeping track of all your equipment. Since virtual machines are relatively easy to create, businesses tend to adopt a lot of them. While it might meet your needs in the moment, it’s very easy to lose track of how many virtual machines you have, what they do, where they go, and their other attributes. Old virtual machines are quickly forgotten about while new ones get the most attention. The result is a host of virtual machines that end up doing little to nothing.

Looking to the cloud

Some organizations may look to the cloud to solve the problem of IT sprawl, but in some cases, cloud computing actually complicates the situation even further. Companies will often adopt the cloud to let a third party handle the operations of servers, but due to low prices, many businesses will end up using more servers than they need. The servers that they don’t use don’t just sit there doing nothing; they’re paid for by the company that bought them, usually through an hourly rate. While the hourly rate might not be very much, extend that over the length of a year and suddenly a single server on the cloud is costing you thousands of pounds. Now multiply that by other servers you might not be utilising, and you’ll quickly see how IT sprawl in the cloud can be a costly problem.

VM audits

That’s not to say you’re helpless when it comes to reining in costs. virtual machines and the cloud are useful tools and can be properly managed with the right supervision. Part of the problem can be tackled by using a network scanning tool, which helps your business by determining how many machines you have, what they’re doing, and where they’re located. These VM audits can single out machines that might be deleted or at the very least archived, thereby reducing the amount of resources dedicated to it. Archived VMs can be found and used again if you need them.

Proper reduction of IT sprawl can also be served through the adoption of new procedures specifically targeted at managing server requests and knowing who is responsible for which workloads. Also worth considering is the use of hyper converged infrastructure, which can mitigate some of the most common problems encountered with IT sprawl. Another good option is to simply embrace the concept behind no longer solving increased demands by purchasing new equipment. Make the most of what you already have, and you’ll avoid IT sprawl altogether.

No one disputes the advantages of using virtual machines and the cloud, but it’s important to note the potential drawbacks. IT sprawl is one pitfall that too many businesses stumble into without realising it. By identifying the problem and taking the appropriate measures to combat it, you’ll be in a much better position to grow your company and achieve success.

Read Andrew Fryer's follow up post here.

Comments (1)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Andrew Fryer follows on from Rick Delgado’s Is IT Sprawl costing you millions? article with an in depth overview of the steps you can take to prevent the sprawl. (Read the article and the image will make sense!)

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