Server virtualization has alleviated some of these concerns. However, once again, the cheap ubiquity and simplicity of deploying a virtual server means that many data centers are victims of "virtual server sprawl." Virtual servers get provisioned for testing or a special event Website and then are never decommissioned.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A), decommissioned applications, cancelled projects, changes in IT management and other events mean many servers-physical and virtual-are no longer needed. But which ones? Without careful controls, it is easy to end up with servers that are powered on but doing absolutely nothing useful for your IT environment or your business as a whole.
In many instances, CPU utilization or disk I/O statistics are used as a quick proxy of the need for a server. But the fact is, a server can have a high utilization rate while not performing any useful work. Cautious IT managers are increasingly likely to leave those servers untouched rather than introduce potentially risky changes to the infrastructure.
Instead, IT must carefully analyze what work the server is performing. For instance, a server that is running a critical customer database is inherently performing useful work. By contrast, a server that is only performing overnight antivirus scans is not defined as "useful" because it does not directly affect core, value-adding business processes. Analyzing the server's work load at the application level is the best way to determine what useful work the server is performing, if any.