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Night of the Living Dead Workloads

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By Paul Miller, HPE Vice President of Marketing, Software-defined and Cloud Group

What do storage administrators fear? It’s not vampires, werewolves, ghosts, ghouls, or even Michael Myers (the gigantic masked menace of Halloween fame, not Austin Powers). Storage and compute admins fear zombies – or more specifically, zombie workloads. Zombie workloads are unused, forgotten, and for all intents and purposes, dead. However, they can take on a life of their own when lost in the shuffle because (even though they are no longer being used) IT is still unknowingly footing the bill for them to sit idle. These forgotten workloads have become a serious problem in public cloud deployments, forcing companies to pay unexpected and unpredictable operating costs.

Cloud computing is often praised for its ease; simply swipe a credit card and you can instantly purchase infrastructure. But without really understanding the true cost of public cloud, charges can quickly spiral out of control. The convenience of this cloud credit card operating model is leaving some admins scratching their heads when the monthly cloud bill comes around. The VMs are already spun up but are no longer valuable to IT. Despite this, they are still responsible for paying up.

But just how widespread is this issue? A 2015 study by Stanford University estimates that today there are more than 10M zombie servers deployed worldwide.   And Gartner analyst Tom Bittman suggests that 30% to 50% of public cloud VMs are actually zombies, writing in a blog post, “There’s a fair amount of waste here – life cycle management and governance for VMs in the public cloud are not nearly as rigorous as management and governance in on-premises private clouds.”

Zombie workloads may not feast on brains, but they do eat up valuable resources. Storage, CPU, and RAM are all taken up by zombie workloads, depriving production and mission-critical VMs of these same resources. With a possible 30% to 50% of public cloud VMs being zombies, it begs the question: is there a more efficient way to achieve the benefits of cloud computing? One that isn’t as likely to suffer a Dawn of the Dead scenario?

Private cloud capacity planning is one strategy TechTarget’s Nick Martin suggests to fight off zombie workloads. One advantage of private cloud is that it gives IT more control over the infrastructure. IT also has more insight into which workloads are active since admins can provision and manage their own servers. This is not to say that public cloud isn’t right for some workloads – it’s just not meant for all workloads. Robert Gates summed it up nicely in a recent article about the results of a Pacific Crest Securities survey, writing, “Nearly two out of three CIOs (62%) have brought workloads back to their data centers, rekindling the on-premises vs. cloud computing debate and suggesting the cloud may not be the answer for everything.”

HPE is helping businesses define and implement a multi-cloud reality: the Right Mix of traditional IT, private, and public cloud. With innovative, new technology, like in HPE Synergy and HPE Hyper Converged solutions, implementing a private cloud becomes an effective option to deliver a public cloud-like experience in your own datacenter. And it often comes with a lower total cost of ownership.

These solutions provide software-defined intelligence via HPE OneView that businesses need to be able to run private or hybrid It environments. The flexibility and ease of management from HPE OneView delivers the power to bring the most business-critical applications back on premises. No complex billing structures, no unpredictability.  Private cloud can’t save you from the impending zombie apocalypse (sorry!) but it can help you prevent zombie workloads from running up additional costs in your data center. To learn more about HPE composable and hyperconverged solutions, download the ebooks How Hyperconvergence Can Help IT and Composable Infrastructure for Dummies.

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