Pricey telecomms ‘obstacle' to server consolidation

The high cost of communications links in New Zealand may be a significant handicap to consolidation of servers within a company with multiple offices, says Virginia-based Unisys technology manager Kenneth Nesbit.

The high cost of communications links in New Zealand may be a significant handicap to consolidation of servers within a company with multiple offices, says Virginia-based Unisys technology manager Kenneth Nesbit.

“A communications circuit that would cost me $US400 to $US500 a month in the US would run to between $US1000 and $1500, perhaps even $2000, here,” he says. Fewer servers, further away from outlying offices, means more long-distance links to the remote users, and with higher charges, this could raise the cost of consolidation beyond the economical point, he says.

But acknowledging this difference, much the same challenges exist in New Zealand as in the US, says Nesbit, who was visiting the country last week. Despite the generally smaller scale of businesses, there are still organisations here with several hundred servers. With expanding applications and storage needs, servers multiply like rabbits, he says.

“With fewer servers, you don’t need so many people to support them. That’s a big economy immediately. And you can use the same kind of people.”

The skills to manage a large server these days are not greatly different from those required to manage one in a small department, he says.

The reduced demand for staff will enable the organisation to use those people to alleviate pressure points elsewhere in the IT operation.

“You typically have helpdesks that take a long time to respond, applications that are not tested enough, limited quality assurance, and inadequate arrangements for disaster recovery and business resumption.” All these might be improved with a few extra bodies.

New Zealand is better equipped for consolidation than the US in at least one way, he says; we have more people with all-round skills and knowledge. “In the US, I usually have access to a bunch of [client staff] who know all about networks, but I have to go to another team if I want someone who knows about the applications.”

Does consolidation reduce resiliency against failure? “It’s never wise to have a single failure point,” he says; “we recommend a minimum of two servers in the organisation.”

Nesbit has overseen consolidations for huge organisations like the US Inland Revenue Service and the US Army.

A key first stage of consolidation is a detailed requirements analysis, driven by the needs of the business. The analysis team should consider total cost of ownership alongside all other benefits and possible disadvantages.

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