Thursday, 8 July 2010

NightWatchman Server Edition addresses server sprawl

You probably know that 1E provides PC power management software – the company’s NightWatchman product is installed on more than four million PCs worldwide. But the company has been turning its attention to the server market and yesterday launched version 2.0 of NightWatchman Server Edition.

The focus of the product is to identify both physical and virtual servers that are not performing ‘Useful Work’ (1E has trademarked the expression).

It’s been a widespread belief for some time that IT organisations often don’t know what many of their servers are doing. The story is that companies have resorted to switching off servers to see if anyone complains (although I’ve not yet met anyone who has actually done that). In fact 1E’s research has found that typically 15% of servers are doing nothing.

Even if they are needed, servers are often under-used, which is where virtualisation has become such a success story. By putting several virtual servers on one physical device the efficiency increases significantly. The trouble is that it’s become two easy to create a virtual server which can subsequently be abandoned and forgotten. But it’s still using resources and costing money in terms of power use, software licenses, etc.

1E’s solution to both the physical and virtual server problem is to identify all known un-productive work and see what’s left. The software can identify a range of processes and activities, including CPU, disk, networking, etc. that enable it to establish what’s going on and what might be needed. If its just anti-virus scans, patches and backups then its not doing anything productive.



Based on the software findings servers can be automatically placed in a low-power state (which saves 12% of power to the server plus savings in data centre cooling systems) or removed completely.


There’s been a lot of talk about the problem of virtual server sprawl in recent years and 1E does seem to be addressing the issue head on. Talking to product managers Andy Hawkins and Andy Dominey yesterday they certainly see lots of development opportunities down the line. One is to include chargeback capabilities in the product - enabling data centres to allocate energy use and costs to servers, and hence, potentially, to applications and departments. Making those that use IT pay the energy costs really should be a long-term business objective.

Another possibility is to add more functionality to NightWatchman Server Edition to address other data centre energy aspects. For example, the company is talking to network/storage vendors to increase the product’s scope, but is keen to continue its agnostic view of vendors beyond its partnerships with Microsoft and VMware.

Any monitoring of IT energy use (and emissions) is still a relatively rare activity so Green IT products like this should be welcomed.

© The Green IT Review

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