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Are economic conditions changing how you manage server turnover?

(Scott Lowe, TechRepublic) Between cloud computing, virtualization, and economic conditions, the data center has certainly changed form over the past 10 years. Where there used to be a box for each discrete workload, we now have boxes running virtualized server instances for dozens of workloads and some services run “in the cloud” and, relying on no local servers at all, simply depend on the corporate router to achieve their aims. Every day, more and more software-as-a-service vendors pop up offering their wares. And today, unprecedented economic conditions are forcing organizations of all types to deeply examine everything they do to make sure that every dollar spent directly supports the bottom line.

With this perfect storm of activity, what’s happening in the data center? In May, CNET quoted an IDC report indicating that worldwide server sales were down 25% in the first quarter when compared to sales of a year ago. In February, ZDNet’s Larry Dignan quoted another IDC report indicating that year-over-year server sales fell 12 percent. There are also published reports claiming that 2009 server sales will plummet more than 20 percent for the year.

Some possible reasons above for this downturn:
Virtualization. With dozens of workloads now running on a single box, physical server sprawl is a thing of the past (of course, virtual server sprawl is now here to stay!). Fewer servers in the data center directly equates to fewer server sales for each vendor. Virtualization has other benefits beyond simple consolidation; for example, virtualization generally reduces service deployment time and, when deployed in the right way, virtualization can be a boon for high availability.

Software-as-a-service. I doubt that we’ve seen the full impact of SaaS, but I can’t imagine that it hasn’t had at least a minor impact on server purchases and sales. Many colleges and universities, for example, are outsourcing student and, sometimes, faculty/staff email to the likes of Google and Microsoft, thus eliminating the need for a server infrastructure supporting those outsourced email services. No longer are those old servers on the replacement cycle.

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