Making the right server management moves
In an evolving business environment, CIOs need to optimise
server performance by getting server sizing, management, and upgrades right.
by Soutiman Das Gupta
The enterprise data centre has evolved along with the increasing complexity
of the overall business environment.
Enterprises have seen changes in their business environments with the addition
of new products and services, geographical expansion, new personnel, targeted
sales and marketing campaigns, and need for compliance. As a result, the enterprise
data centre has grown in size and has assumed a position of greater importance
To keep pace with the growth CIOs now have to balance a complex mix of the right
software, configurations, patches, and vendor relationships. There is pressure
to align with fast-paced business growth, and at the same time, minimise system
downtime and maximise productivity.
In such a scenario its important to keep a close watch on server architecture
by nurturing, growing, managing, and updating it with the help of the right
policies and technology.
|Making the right server management moves
It takes more than just hardware when it comes to servers. Strategies such
as server sizing, consolidation and management can go a long way in getting
server management right.
Periodic server consolidation can go a long way in doing more with
less. When upgrading or replacing infrastructure, it is best to do what
is needed before a failure occurs.
Server management challenges
Keeping a close watch on the server infrastructure is a great way for the CIO
to ensure that the business is in safe hands. However, things are not easy on
this front since server management involves more challenges than meet the eye.
These include getting the correct server sizing for the various enterprise applications,
creating suitable strategies for jobs such as centralisation and planned upgrades,
managing a high rate of server growth which requires a lot of manpower for deployment,
configuring, administering and keeping track of configuration changes, and frequent
updates to ensure that critical applications are available.
These challenges have made it extremely important for CIOs to take server management
and architecture seriously.
The right size
Any enterprise today uses a wide range of enterprise applications. There may
be ERP, databases, messaging platforms, Web platforms, proxies, CRM, and SCM
Before deployment, as a part of the IT strategy, it is necessary to size server
architecture to match the performance levels that the application will have
to deliver. Sizing servers is an art that requires a combination of logic, careful
study, educated guesswork and calculation.
From the perspective of an organisation, procuring a server and getting
server sizing right is important because one needs to be able to tune the applications
deployed on a server so that the predicted number of users obtain a consistent
response time, says Sagar Sule, President, Cyquator Technologies. At
the same time, correct server sizing will enable the available server resources
to be utilised optimally.
Sanjit Sinha, Senior Manager, Hardware Research at IDC India adds, The
right sizing of servers gives CIOs the confidence that theyll never get
complaints about speed and underutilisation. The key is to strike the optimum
balance between possible peak application load, and normal load.
There is a trend among medium and large enterprises
in India and the PAC to consolidate their server infrastructure. The aim
is to get better performance and availability from
Here are a few strategies for server sizing. First, it is
necessary to gather as much information as possible about the intended use of
applications. You need to know the number of potential users and the number
of concurrent users as well.
Will the use be light, moderate, or heavy? For instance,
in a bank there will be frequent access to the customer database and comparatively
less access to the Intranet portal. In a manufacturing set-up, the production
department will need to access the ERP servers more often during the day than
the HR department.
The next step will be to identify a benchmark that is the closest to intended
usage levels. Most application software vendors have freely available benchmarks
that define standards of the systems you plan to use. For example, the MAPI
Messaging Benchmark is the benchmarking standard for MS Exchange.
The benchmark will usually have information on the recommended hardware such
as the server model, number and speed of CPUs, amount of cache and memory, disk
subsystem, and network adapter.
A point to note is that although published benchmarking standards
are useful, they assume that the server will be exclusively used for a single
application (100 percent CPU utilisation).
It's always a good idea to use a scale-out strategy
rather than a scale-up strategy. You can deploy four 2-way servers instead
of a single 8-way server
Wipro Personal Computing Business
Prototypes and guesses
You can also build and test a prototype, if you have the luxury of time and
money. Another method is to make an educated guess based on your knowledge and
experience. This is surprisingly useful especially for very experienced CIOs,
who can combine the published recommended server configurations with personal
Its always a good idea to adopt hardware that can be readily upgraded
by adding processors, memory, hard drives and even network interfaces if required.
Here are a few thumb rules to follow while planning:
- For proxy servers: The RAM should be high (1 GB
- For VPNs: The CPU power should be high.
- For Web servers: The most important factor for sizing
is the number of visitors, which is usually underestimated.
- For ERP servers: There should be emphasis on failover
and load balancing.
Enterprises perform server consolidation periodically to gain a number of business
benefits. The idea is to do more with less by consolidating server resources
and tools, and simplifying training. This helps minimise business disruptions
and improve customer satisfaction.
There is a trend among medium and large enterprises in India and the APAC
to consolidate their server infrastructure. The aim is to get better performance
and availability from the infrastructure, explains Sanjit Sinha.
It helps an organisation respond quickly to changes in the business needs
and makes for better manageability, concurs Anil Jain, Vice President,
Wipro Personal Computing Business.
Time to upgrade or replace
It is always necessary to look at long-term instead
of near-term benefits when upgrading or purchasing new hardware. One shouldn't
wait for a catastrophic failure before upgrading or replacing equipment
Whatever the reason, it is always necessary to look at long-term instead of
near-term benefits when upgrading or purchasing new hardware. One shouldnt
wait for a catastrophic failure before upgrading or replacing equipment.
A number of server performance and network monitoring tools in the IT infrastructure
give out various signs that indicate whether server hardware needs to be replaced
or simply upgraded.
If the performance requirement of the particular application exceeds the current
capabilities of the server then it will become apparent if it is time to upgrade.
There may be frequent instances of downtime or unexplained application seizures.
Sometimes the specifications of the deployed hardware do not match recommendations.
In such cases, an upgrade is desirable.
Sometimes, the speed is sharply reduced and you find yourself spending too much
time troubleshooting and fixing server issues. Depending on the nature and extent
of these issues, it may be a good idea to replace the boxes.
From the perspective of an organisation, procuring a
server and getting server sizing right is important because one needs
to be able to tune the applications deployed on a server so that the predicted
number of users obtain a consistent response time
Its useful to create an upgrade strategy so that its
performed in a planned and phased manner that minimises wastage.
Sinha says, One has to first understand and prioritise applications running
on servers. Server platform choices are driven by the type and availability
of solutions, and the long-term benefits associated with a platform.
While undertaking a consolidation exercise, CIOs need to
consider how they can get better utilisation, availability, performance, and
CIOs should look at aspects such as platform monitoring, management and control,
and infrastructure and application provisioning. In the next level, enterprises
should look at infrastructure virtualisation and service-level automation.
The main factors that Cyquator Technologies considers during server upgrade
processes are: the product lifecycle especially from the predicted End of Life
(EOL) perspective, the ease of migration of existing applications without downtime,
the scalability of CPU, RAM, network interfaces, and disk space, and the amenability
of the new hardware for augmentation to the load-balanced layer of the current
On another note, Jain says, Its always a good idea to use a scale-out
strategy rather than a scale-up strategy. You can deploy four 2-way servers
instead of a single 8-way server. Obviously fans of the SMP approach who
run mission-critical applications on 64-way or bigger boxes will beg to differ
but for smaller deployments, a scale-out approach can work.
Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at