There’s a growing problem in data centres: server sprawl. And it could get worse.

IDC analysts recently named server sprawl one of the most important trends affecting data centres in its December 2007 report, Worldwide Enterprise Server 2008 Top 10 Predictions.
It’s not just the number of physical machines that’s growing. Virtual machines are proliferating, too, creating virtual sprawl.
But IDC predicts that as sprawl “begins to impact daily operations, customers will begin to demand easy-to-use management consoles".
And, already, new tools are emerging that could change the field of server management and help you transform your data centre into one that more effectively supports your business initiatives.
Not just a physical problem
The signs of physical server sprawl are obvious in many data centres.
Blades and virtualisation can help ease physical sprawl, according to analysts like Jonathan Eunice, an IT advisor at analyst firm Illuminata.
Virtualisation helps eliminate unused capacity, creating instead virtual machines that can boost productivity and utilisation rates with more efficient handling of peak demands. 
But virtual servers can contribute to sprawl, too.  As IDC puts it, “A new challenge for IT managers is the prospect of virtual machine (VM) ‘sprawl,’ which when combined with server sprawl for physical servers, means that administrators must manage many times the number of software-defined ‘objects’ as they did several years ago.”
And since IDC estimates the number of virtual servers is growing at 28% annually – roughly four times faster than physical servers – virtual sprawl will continue to be a problem, unless businesses take steps to manage it.
A new way to manage

But new tools are emerging that could help contain sprawl and ease server management. One of those is HP Insight Dynamics-VSE software, an integrated solution to visualise, plan and change physical and virtual resources using a single tool.  By streamlining the management of all servers, it helps you adapt your infrastructure as your company grows and to reduce operational costs.
HP Insight Dynamics-VSE uses the concept of logical servers—profiles that include data on components such as the operating system, the application and hardware configuration that can be moved across physical and virtual machines as necessary. This is a powerful way of addressing servers, because it extends the efficiency of virtualisation in creating and managing virtual servers to physical machines.
HP Insight Dynamics-VSE – which is based on HP Systems Insight Manager – uses templates to describe these logical servers, so creating a new one – or a whole army of new ones – can be a matter of populating a template.  That can save time coordinating network, server and storage managers, especially if you’re creating or provisioning many servers at once.
Capacity planning made easy

Insight Dynamics-VSE includes a capacity planning feature that helps you plan your data centre via a drag-and-drop interface. Administrators, for example, can decide where to put a new workload by dragging it over a possible physical machine. The capacity planning feature assigns a rating to the placement, from one to five stars.
With a few clicks, the feature can also help you decide how to better utilise your machines, determine how to fit dozens of workloads on a few servers or find an energy-efficient server for an application.
Insight Dynamics-VSE helps you make these decisions by collecting up to two years’ worth of data—such as utilization, power consumption and performance—for each server. It uses HP Smart Solver technology to analyze those measurements to help you find the best fit, whether the need is real and immediate or a long-term concern that’s part of a “what-if” scenario.
In addition to making historical server usage data understandable and actionable, HP offers services to assist companies throughout the data centre lifecycle— from determining an Insight Dynamics-VSE strategy to designing and implementing solutions to ongoing operations support and continual improvement.
The capabilities of HP Insight Dynamics-VSE can help you worry less about whether a server is physical or virtual, and more about how it can be managed more efficiently to support your business. And more efficient management is one step in transforming your data centre into a truly adaptive infrastructure.