Barclay's headquarters in London

Barclay's headquarters in London

Barclays ‘Fires’ 9,000 Idle Servers From Data Centers

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As it prepares to make huge cuts to its investment banking business and lay off 7,000 employees, Barclays has also been busy firing idle servers from its data centers.

The British banking giant decommissioned more than 9,000 servers in 2013 alone, following removal of about 5,500 “comatose” servers from its global data center footprint in 2012. The effort to reduce waste of space and energy in its data centers has made Barclays winner of an annual data center industry “biggest (server) loser” contest for two consecutive years.

Organized by the Uptime Institute, the Server Roundup contest is a way to inspire companies to take a hard look at their IT footprint and find and eliminate the machines that are not doing anything except sucking up precious data center power and cooling capacity.

Last week Uptime announced that Barclays had split the first place in the 2013 Server Roundup with Sun Life Financial, the Toronto-based financial services multinational known primarily for its life insurance business. Last year’s winner was AOL, which in 2012 retired and recycled about 9,500 servers.

Getting Rid Of Idle Servers Not Commonplace

As common-sense as it may sound, removing idle servers from data centers is not common place in the industry, and companies need as much inspiration – which in this case comes in the form of a contest – as they can get. The common way of structuring data center management provides little incentive for roundups of comatose servers.

Uptime says there are two reasons for this problem: fear and misplaced accountability for efficiency.

Data center managers are simply afraid to unplug servers in complex IT environments, where one misstep can lead to downtime, since their job is to keep things running.

Also, in about 80% of the cases, facilities managers or corporate real estate departments are the ones paying data center power bills. Since IT teams at these companies never see the power bill, they have little concern for energy consumption of the hardware they maintain.

Lots of Money and Data Center Space Saved

Optimizing IT footprint, however, can save a company a lot of money. The 9,000 servers Barclays removed in 2013 were consuming about 2.5 megawatts of power, and by removing them the company estimates to have reduced its annual power bills by about $5.4 million.

By removing the servers, the company also freed up nearly 600 server racks, which translates into further savings by staving off expansion of data center space. Finally, the bank estimates to have saved about $1.3 million on legacy hardware maintenance and freed up more than 20,000 network ports and 3,000 SAN ports.

“We are seeing reductions in power, cooling, rack space and network port utilization – all of this while our usable compute footprint goes up, giving us the room to continue to grow the business,” Paul Nally, a director at Barclays, said.

A Rare Bit of Good News

The reduction in cost is likely to be welcome news for the business that is going through major restructuring. Barclay’s announced last week that it would be slashing its investment banking division and letting go more than a quarter of the division’s employees, The New York Times reported.

The company is going to sharpen focus on its core businesses: credit cards, retail and corporate banking in Britain and banking in Africa.

Sun Life Gets Rid of 400 Servers

Sun Life, the other winner of the latest Serve Roundup, retired about 440 servers in 2013. The company replaced 54 of them with newer, more efficient models and converted 75 of them to virtual machines.

Sun Life expects the project to result in a total reduction in power requirements of about 115 kilowatts and savings of about $100,000 on energy costs.

This is the third year Uptime has conducted the roundup.

About the Author

San Francisco-based business and technology journalist. Editor in chief at Data Center Knowledge, covering the global data center industry.

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  1. "As common-sense as it may sound, removing idle servers from data centers is not common place in the industry..." Sad, but true. It's crucial that organizations realize that the health and capability of the operating environment makes a significant difference in how well IT is able to support the enterprise. And, it's the weakest/slowest/least efficient link that sets the tone across the entire infrastructure. This is true whether you are talking about outdated servers or still trying to run on 1GbE, when an investment in 10GbE using Intel network BASE-T adapters could use the same cabling yet provide a phenomenal upgrade.