February 08, 2018
Minding Your Cloud Subscriptions
Zombie servers are around, even among your virtual resources — and you’re paying for them.
Let us consider the origin of a server. They primarily start with an original equipment manufacturer (OEM). It is a base model, usually with bare bones equipment in it to power up and support any low-end software installed on it. From here, the options explode with what you can do. Load up all the bays with the maximum number of processors, memory hard drives and network cards and you could have a computing giant. But what does this really do? This isn’t what comes to mind for many people.
What Is a Server, Really?
The definition of a server depends on your perspective. A system administrator sees a server as a baby to be coddled and maintained. A data center manager sees servers as they affect the balance of power, heat production and space within the data center. An accountant sees one as a depreciating capital expenditure that needs to be replaced as infrequently as possible. A purchasing agent sees a server as something to be acquired in a way to receive the highest value at the lowest cost. A user may not notice a server or what it does, but if the server goes down, they are affected and certainly make their voice heard by the powers that be in the organization concerned with productivity.
If we allowed each of these separate perspectives to determine the specifications of a server being bought, we’d get a different piece of equipment each time. The system administrator would want something flexible in output, as it handles a volume of requests that may increase or decrease at times. A data center manager would want something that is easy to maintain (think hot-swappable parts, and easy to get to). An accountant would want to purchase something dependable that could stay operational for a consistent duration. A purchasing agent might get something in bulk or add extras to drive the price down. A user may have no opinion on the purchase of a server except that it he or she wouldn’t want it to break down (that loss of productivity thing).
Too often, I am seeing customers purchasing servers for the wrong reasons (or perhaps they are letting the wrong people making the purchase decisions). They are purchasing servers in bulk with all the options. They are naming them, putting them into their proper place. They add all the proper cables so that when the servers are turned on, customers know where they are virtually and physically. They turn them on and then let them sit — for weeks, for months, sometimes even for years.
A server turned on is an expense generator. Power and heat transference are the physical expenses it eats up. But then the need to maintain it remains. If a component fails, organizations need to know when and how quickly they can replace that component to bring everything back up. As it spins, the value of the server depreciates, slowly moving toward a time when it needs to be replaced because fixing it would cost more than its overall value.
Wasted Resources in the Cloud
“But wait”, some might say, “I would know if we were paying for servers that aren’t being used.” This may be true for the on-premises servers that you control costs on and can physically count. However, I would bet that these same naysayers are not looking in all the right places for these forgotten servers. One of those places is within Office 365.
Do you have an E3 or comparative subscription? Are you using everything offered within that subscription? Based on my experience with customers, I believe there are a large number of organizations that are not using the full set of features that they are paying for.
You most likely have Exchange Online. That is one of the easiest and most primary workloads that organizations move into the Microsoft platform as a service. You may have even used the click to run script to allow your users to install the subscription edition of Office Pro Plus. But where are you storing your Word files? How are your users communicating via IM?
Did you know that you are paying for enterprise solutions that can cater to file storage, collaboration of information, messaging and conferencing between users? If you are also paying for another organization to provide these services, you may be paying for a server to run with nothing on it.
Know Your Subscriptions
I suggest having a discussion with one of our experts on what these subscriptions include. Make an informed decision so that you utilize all the systems and solutions within this subscription. If your organization needs to purchase alternative software solutions that do the same thing, be educated about it. If it’s your choice to keep a couple empty servers running, make sure it makes a good business case.