The horror: 'Ghost servers' that haunt your bottom line

They eat up real estate and electricity, but aren't doing any real work.

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When BlueCross BlueShield of Florida (BCBSF), which provides insurance services for nearly 9 million people, decided to build a new data center in 2005, the company also felt it was time to get a comprehensive look at its asset inventory, says Paul Stallings, senior manager for provisioning services. In addition to the new and existing data centers, BCBSF also has about 10 smaller server rooms in various locations around the state.

The server room equipment was being managed by different departments within the insurance provider, and each had a different way of tracking and documenting assets, Stallings says. Using Aperture Technologies Inc.'s VISTA tool beginning in late 2005, BCBSF began documenting its IT resources under a single umbrella.

"There were definitely undocumented assets," Stallings says. "When you have seven or eight teams managing the hardware, each using a different process, there was really no way to get a systemwide understanding of what we had in our various data centers."

By getting a complete view of its asset inventory, BCBSF has been able to create a formal decommissioning process. When a system needs to be retired, a workflow ticket is automatically generated. The IT department can then start to reclaim floor space, remove cabling and place old servers in pool of equipment that can be either redeployed or completely removed from the environment.

As one of largest IT services providers in the world, Fujitsu Services operates seven Fujitsu-owned data centers in the U.K. with more than 200,000 sq. ft. of floor space, and manages 11 customer-owned facilities.

As a result of its outsourcing business, the company has acquired data center facilities and IT equipment from a variety of sources, and much of the equipment came with no asset or configuration management process in place, says Mark Scott, global data center delivery manager at Fujitsu Services.

The company had previously used a configuration cataloging system that recorded only the location of equipment on the floor, but it did not provide any insight into specific use of the equipment.

In attempt to get a comprehensive inventory and create an asset management strategy that would allow it to maximize existing data center space and continue to grow, Fujitsu Services began working with Aperture to deploy its VISTA data center resource management system in 2005, and the company began to see a variety of issues that were wasting resources.

"We found we had IT equipment on the floor that people within the company had thought we had gotten rid of years ago," he says. "We looked deeper and found out we were also still paying lease and maintenance on the equipment. We even found that we were paying lease and maintenance on equipment that been removed from our data centers."

By extending the asset management systems across its entire U.K.-based data center operation, Fujitsu Services has reduced its operational costs and then passed the savings on to customers, Scott says.

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