Unused Servers Cost Businesses $25B Annually: Study

A survey sponsored by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy found that one in six servers-about 4.7 million worldwide-are doing nothing useful, costing businesses as much as $25 billion a year. The survey of global IT professionals also found that many are lacking the necessary tools and know-how to find and get rid of unused servers.

About one in six servers worldwide are doing nothing useful for their companies, wasting about $25 billion a year, according to a survey of global IT managers.

The study, conducted by Kelton Research and commissioned by automation software maker 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy, found that about 4.7 million servers are doing nothing useful, and that IT administrators have little insight into server utilization rates or usefulness. Survey results were released Oct. 16.

Those servers are costing businesses a lot of money and energy, according to 1E CEO Sumir Karayi.

"The savings from decommissioning non-productive servers cannot be ignored," Karayi said in a statement. "Organizations need better information on server efficiency and more effective ongoing server energy management."

Seventy-two percent of respondents said that 15 percent or more of their servers are not doing anything useful, and 83 percent said they don't have a good grasp of the utilization rates of their servers.

Many also said they don't have the right tools to measure utilization. Seventy-two percent said they rely on CPU utilization to measure server efficiency, even though the CPU is running regardless of whether the server is running an important workload or running tasks that offer little value to the business. Sixty-three percent said they use manual checks or trial and error, or wait until a system breaks down, to find unused servers.

Virtualization also comes into play, according to respondents. About 65 percent said they have virtualized unused servers, and a third said they are looking for solutions for dealing with virtual machine sprawl. Forty-three percent are using change control procedures or software to manage the sprawl.

Three-quarters of respondents said their companies' mandates to deliver high levels of IT service internally make it more difficult to measure and improve server efficiency.

Data centers in the United States continue to consume huge amounts of power, even at a time when power-saving tools are available, according to Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. Businesses need to move to solve this problem.

"Faced with a fast-moving regulatory environment-including the U.S. climate bill, pending EPA data center initiatives and the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen-the U.S. IT sector may soon be under greater scrutiny for its power consumption," Callahan said in a statement. "We all want to stay ahead of the curve and make smart, energy-efficient changes where we can."