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					                             Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   1




Consolidating Servers with Microsoft® Windows Server™ 2003

                 on Intel-based Platforms

                       Bryan Frame

                  Bowie State University
                                              Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   2


                                          Abstract


Server consolidation methodologies include logical consolidation of control, physical

consolidation of facilities, and rationalized consolidation of servers. Server consolidation

depends on the technologies of clustering, workload management, and server

partitioning. Microsoft’s Windows Server™ 2003 operating systems offer affordable

server-consolidation solutions for Intel’s x86-based hardware platforms by providing

direct support for network load balancing, COM+ clustering, and Microsoft’s Clustering

Service. The Windows System Resource Manager supports workload management in the

Enterprise and Datacenter editions. Pricing varies widely depending on the operating

system edition and the licensing model. Finding cost-effective solutions is possible, but

most of the TCO savings from server consolidation usually results from personnel

reductions, which means that waiting for the next scheduled upgrade or migration may be

best.
                                              Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   3


             Consolidating Servers with Microsoft® Windows Server™ 2003

                                 on Intel-based Platforms

       Data center and server room overcrowding is becoming a primary issue of

concern. It is being caused by the ever increasing “server sprawl” (Day, 2003) that has

evolved from IT departments’ efforts to satisfy the seemingly endless demands of rapidly

changing business requirements. Additionally, declining IT budgets brought on by the

need to minimize losses in markets of diminishing returns have put many solutions

financially out of reach. In search of scalable solutions that can reduce the physical

requirements of space, power, and cooling (Intel, 2004, n.d.) while minimizing the Total

Cost of Ownership (TCO), many IT departments are investigating server consolidation.

       The server market used to be the domain of IBM’s mainframes and powerful

Unix-based machines. Microsoft’s domain was purely that of the desktop computer until

the initial release of Windows NT Server. Several releases later, Microsoft® Windows

NT Server 4.0 was considered a stable operating system that was economically

competitive, although it could be easily destabilized by the applications it was hosting.

Therefore, it became common practice for Windows NT servers to host single

applications (Ruest & Ruest, 2003). It was a reasonable practice considering the

relatively low cost of the Intel-based hardware. However, the resource requirements

necessary to maintain the growing number of modern networked systems properly are

constantly increasing (Intel, 2004). In theory, the server administration requirements

caused by the addition of each server should be incremental. However, the reality of the

matter is that the requirements are increasing exponentially because of the continually

evolving security threats and vulnerabilities that are generated by allowing inter-server
                                              Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   4


communication. Consolidation must be considered to ease administration requirements

and reduce the demand on the physical resources. Interest in server consolidation is

definitely increasing (Phelps, 2002c). What does server consolidation really entail?

                      General Server Consolidation Methodologies

       A single, commonly accepted definition for server consolidation does not exist.

However, the term is frequently applied to a number of methodologies for reducing

hardware costs and operating expenses. Phelps states, “Server consolidation can range

from consolidating control and ownership of distributed servers to merging workloads

onto a single large server” (2002a). Phelps further defines three types of server

consolidation methodologies: logical, physical, and rationalized.

Logical Consolidation

       Logical consolidation involves “consolidating control and ownership” (Phelps,

2002a) but does not involve any physical relocation of people or equipment. Logical

consolidation primarily involves assigning responsibility for the server operations to a

single entity or department so operating procedures and policies can be standardized. The

desired result would be more reliable and cost-effective operations.

Physical Consolidation

       Physical consolidation involves relocating multiple distributed servers to a

common location (Phelps, 2002c), but does not reduce the number of operational servers.

The desired effect would be to provide more reliable and cost-effective operations by

reducing the number of personnel and facilities. Physical consolidation may also assist in

implementing a successful logical consolidation, although the two are considered

separate types of server consolidation.
                                              Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   5


Rationalized Consolidation

       The third, and possibly most significant, type of server consolidation is

rationalized server consolidation. This is the only server consolidation methodology that

actually involves reducing the number of physical servers. Rationalized server

consolidation involves combining applications onto a reduced number of larger servers

(Phelps, 2002a). Combining applications onto fewer servers can achieve the same

benefits as both logical and physical consolidation with increased cost reductions

(Powell, 2002) and, although not exclusive to rationalized server consolidation, provide

additional benefits such as reducing complexity and errors, improving availability

(Chuba, 2003) and security, and improving scalability and performance (Claunch &

Phelps, 2002). A number of technologies exist that make rationalized server

consolidation possible.

                            Server Consolidation Technologies

       Significant advancements have been made in both the hardware (Intel, 2003) and

operating systems of servers that facilitate server consolidation. Three technologies are

particularly instrumental in rationalized server consolidation: server clustering (Binstock,

n.d.), workload management (Phelps, 2002a), and server partitioning (Phelps, 2002e).

Whether implemented in hardware, software, or a combination of the two, the functions

are essentially the same; hardware implementations have the performance advantage, and

software implementations have greater flexibility. Although clustering is not commonly

identified as a server consolidation technology, it should be—at least when using

relatively inexpensive Intel-based hardware platforms.
                                               Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™     2003     6


Clustering

       Clustering is a proven technology, with server clusters found among the top 500

supercomputers in the world (Binstock, n.d.). Clustering combines the resources of

multiple lower-performance servers, as shown in Figure 1, into a highly available, high-

performance virtual server that appears as a single entity. Clustering provides a centrally

managed entity that is easily and economically scalable to support resource-hungry

applications (Shankland, 2004), to support high demand through load balancing, or to

ensure high availability through failover. For example, if the storage capacity of a single

server in a storage cluster has been reached and more capacity is necessary, an additional

server can be clustered with the others to increase the total storage capacity and still

allow the cluster to appear as a single entity to the users or applications relying on that

storage space.

       Load balancing and                                      Virtual Server


failover go hand-in-hand. That is,               Node 1          Node 2          Node 3

                                                 AP1             AP1            AP1
multiple servers are clustered

together to support high demands
                                                   OS              OS              OS
such as those experienced by an

extremely popular Web server.
                                       Figure 1. Sample cluster that combines the resources of three
                                       lower-performance servers into a single high-performance
The load is distributed among the      virtual server.

servers in the cluster to reduce bottlenecks. At the same time, whether the demand is high

or not, if a server in the cluster fails, the remaining servers may continue to carry the load

and keep the system available. The cluster, once viewed as a single virtual entity, can
                                               Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™    2003         7


then support workload management or server partitioning for rationalized server

consolidation.

Workload Management

       Workload management simply allows multiple applications to share a single high-

performance server or server cluster by distributing and
                                                                                  Server
balancing resource usage among multiple applications on a
                                                                           AP1     AP2     AP3
single instance of the operating system as depicted by Figure 2.

However, workload management is not a suitable solution for

resource sharing with all applications. Frequently, unruly

applications make it necessary to host individual applications
                                                                                 Operating
on independent servers to avoid conflicts. In those cases, the                    System

server resources are frequently under-utilized (Intel, n.d.) and       Figure 2. Workload
                                                                       management combines
require server partitioning for the applications to reliably share     multiple applications onto a
                                                                       single server.
the server resources.

Partitioning                                                                Server

       Partitioning, though recently implemented in            Virtual Server      Virtual Server
                                                                 AP1                 AP2
the enterprise server environment, is actually a

holdover from the early days of the mainframe during

the 1960s. No matter whether it is a cluster, a single

powerful server, or a mainframe, a single application
                                                                     OS                  OS
can find making full use of the available resources

difficult (Dell, 2002) to achieve. As Figure 3 shows,                Operating System

a server can be divided into multiple virtual servers      Figure 3. Partitioning divides a single
                                                           server into multiple virtual servers each
                                                           with its own OS instance.
                                              Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   8


(Vijayan, 2000) to allow multiple applications to share the server resources distributed

among multiple operating-system instances. In such cases, the operating-system instances

may be identical, different versions, or entirely different operating systems altogether.

Using partitioning, applications that normally require separate servers, such as multiple

IIS Web servers, can be hosted by a single powerful machine or cluster of machines.

There are actually two different partitioning methodologies: hardware partitioning

(Phelps, 2002d), and software partitioning (Phelps, 2002e). However, hardware

partitioning is proprietary and is only minimally supported on Intel-based hardware

platforms (Bittman, 2003); therefore, all forthcoming references to partitioning in this

document imply the software-partitioning methodology.

General Server Consolidation Summary

       It is understandable that any server consolidation solution will likely incorporate

some facets from each of the three server-consolidation methodologies: logical, physical,

and rationalized. While logical server consolidation will consolidate control, and physical

server consolidation will consolidate locations, rationalized server consolidation is

necessary to reduce the actual number of physical servers.

       Rationalized server consolidation requires some combination of three

technologies to be successful. Clustering is desirable when using relatively inexpensive

Intel-based hardware platforms, workload management is necessary for controlling

resource sharing, and partitioning is an absolute must for consolidating unruly

applications. Rationalized server consolidation is the desired server-consolidation

solution. Does the Microsoft® Windows Server™ 2003 family of operating systems

support the technologies necessary for rationalized server consolidation?
                                              Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   9


             Microsoft® Windows Server™ 2003 Consolidation Technologies

       A significant number of improvements and enhancements necessary for

rationalized server consolidation have been made in Microsoft’s Windows Server™ 2003

operating system (Microsoft, 2003a, 2003c) when compared with its predecessors:

Microsoft’s Windows Server™ 2000 and Microsoft’s Windows NT® Server. Just like

every other vendor, Microsoft has its own proprietary implementations of clustering,

workload management, and partitioning.

Clustering

       Microsoft defines three types of clustering technologies that it supports in its

Windows 2003 family of server operating systems, depending on the version. The three

clustering technologies defined by Microsoft (n.d.a) are Network Load Balancing (NLB),

Component Load Balancing (CLB), and server clustering using the Microsoft®

Clustering Service (MSCS). These three clustering technologies can be used separately or

in combination to provide improved levels of scalability, high-availability, and

manageability (Microsoft, 2003a, 2003b).

       NLB. Available in all versions of the Windows 2003 family of server operating

systems, NLB clusters are basic clusters representative of the example in Figure 1. NLB

clusters allow between two and 32 servers, or nodes as Microsoft refers to them, to share

the network traffic load. Although the nodes in a NLB cluster can operate on a single

network adapter, it is highly recommended that each of the nodes have at least two

network adapters. One adapter is used to handle the normal TCP and UDP traffic, and the

other adapter is used to carry the intra-host communication; that is, the second adapter

handles the special cluster communications between the cluster’s nodes.
                                              Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   10


       The primary benefit of the NLB cluster is scalability. If the nodes of an NLB

cluster are becoming over tasked, another node can be added to the cluster to increase the

computing power and resources up to the maximum of 32 nodes. Provided there are

enough spare resources in the NLB cluster, the NLB will also provide the benefit of high-

availability because a node failure will be unnoticed by the clients as the remaining nodes

continue to carry the load (Microsoft, 2003b). The NLB clustering technology does well

abstracting the hardware to support stateless applications, which are applications that do

not maintain a persistent connection with its clients, or applications that allow multiple

instances of the application to operate simultaneously on different servers that use the

same data set (Microsoft, 2004e). However, most stateful applications do not support

multiple concurrent instances—those applications require sophisticated clustering

technologies such as CLB.

       CLB. The Microsoft® family of server operating systems does not provide

support for all stateful applications, but it does provide clustering support for specialized
                                                         Virtual Server
COM+ applications, such as e-
                                             Node 1        Node 2         Node 3
commerce shopping carts, by
                                            AP1            AP2            AP3
employing CLB as shown in
                                                            COM+ Application
Figure 4. Unfortunately, CLB
                                              OS             OS            OS

support is extremely

specialized and is currently       Figure 4. CLB cluster showing a common COM+ application,
                                   such as a virtual shopping cart, spanning the nodes and
                                   applications.
only offered in Microsoft’s

Application Server 2000 operating system (Microsoft, n.d.a). Since CLB is not yet

supported by any of the 2003 server versions, it would seem that Microsoft is not ready
                                                Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™    2003         11


to support application clustering, but Microsoft does offer support for certain other

applications through its server clustering technology.

        MSCS. The MSCS server cluster is comprised of two or more nodes up to a

maximum of eight. Although the number of nodes is limited when compared with NLB

clustering, MSCS is Microsoft’s premier clustering technology and is only available with

the Enterprise and Datacenter                                  Virtual Server

editions of the Microsoft’s                      Node 1          Node 2          Node 3

Windows Server™ 2003                             AP1             AP1            AP1


operating system. The MSCS

server cluster provides improved                   OS              OS              OS


availability, increased scalability,
                                       Figure 4. Sample cluster that combines the resources of three
and improved manageability             lower-performance servers into a single high-performance
                                       virtual server.

(Microsoft, 2003b) for business-

critical back-end applications such as databases and email, and when used in conjunction

with NLB clustering, MSCS server clusters can provide high availability to front-end

services such as IIS and DNS. The server cluster maintains multiple copies of an

application distributed among the nodes of the cluster as shown in Figure 5. Only one

instance of the application is active at any time. When MSCS detects that the application

has failed, it activates one of the other application instances to provide continued

operation. The MSCS server cluster is far more than just a high-availability solution. The

MSCS server cluster provides a solid foundation for rationalized server consolidation

using workload management.
                                            Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   12


Workload Management

       The entire Microsoft’s Windows Server™ 2003 family of operating systems

supports rudimentary workload-management functions on single and multi-processor

systems. Only the Enterprise and Datacenter editions of the Microsoft’s Windows

Server™ 2003 operating system offer advanced dynamic-workload-management support

(Microsoft, 2004a). In all versions, the operating system automatically handles processor

allocation, memory allocation, storage allocation, and process prioritization. Limited

manual configuration is possible before application startup by using the processor-affinity

attribute or after startup by using the Windows Task Manager. Although the Task

Manager can be for dynamic adjustment of the base priority of some processes that are

already running, there is no provision for dynamic assignment of processors, memory, or

storage to running applications except when using the Enterprise and Datacenter editions.

       The Enterprise and Datacenter editions use the Windows System Resource

Manager for dynamic allocation of processor and memory workloads (Microsoft, 2004a).

In any case, manual configuration is not recommended unless the work processes are

thoroughly understood for all of the applications involved; otherwise, inefficient resource

usage or system instability could result. Partitioning is an alternative when workload

management is not a suitable or effective solution.

Partitioning

       Microsoft does not offer any form of server partitioning directly through its

server operating systems. However, Microsoft has released an additional product,

Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005. Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005 can use any of the

Windows 2003 family of server operating systems as its host operating system. A guest
                                              Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   13


operating system is an operating system running on a virtual machine created with

Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005. The guest operating system can be any virtually any

x86-based server operating system (Microsoft, 2004c), which makes it useful for

supporting legacy operating systems and applications. A Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005

virtual server may not be appropriate for all applications (Microsoft, 2004d).

       Although a virtual server created with Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005 will

benefit from being able to utilize all of the processors supported by the host operating

system on a multi-processor platform, the virtual server is created with a single processor.

That means that applications that benefit directly from multi-processor platforms may not

achieve desired performance. Microsoft asks, “Would a single-processor hardware

platform be considered for this application?” (Microsoft, 2004d). If not, then a virtual

server is not a good choice for that application. Microsoft expects to have multi-processor

virtual-server support in a later version. The current version is offered in two editions: the

Standard Edition, which supports hardware platforms with up to four processors; and the

Enterprise Edition, which supports hardware platforms with up to 32 processors. Other

than the number of processors supported, the two versions are alike.

       As mentioned in the general discussion on server partitioning, virtual server

technology has been around since the 1960s, but it is still in its infancy for the Windows-

based enterprise environments. It is best to proceed cautiously when considering

Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005 or any of the Microsoft® Windows Server 2003

operating system editions. While there may be any number of benefits from

implementing a server-consolidation solution using Microsoft’s product offerings, the

bottom line is cost.
                                             Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   14




                                      Reducing TCO

       While the main motivation for server consolidation may be “Doing more with

less,” TCO is really the deciding factor in most server-consolidation scenarios. Microsoft

has recently changed its licensing models to become the lowest-cost solution provider

(Bittman, 2004) for server consolidation options in the x86-based server market,

especially on partitioned servers (Niccolai, 2003). Additionally, Microsoft has broadened

in market by pricing enterprise-level solutions to be more affordable (Galli, 2003) for

more small and mid-sized businesses.

       The number of possible configurations using Microsoft’s products is too vast to

cover within the scope of this document, and Microsoft’s current server operating system

prices vary widely. Prices depend on the operating system edition and the licensing

models. However, the Standard Edition of the 2003 server operating system costs nearly

$1,000 and the Enterprise goes for more than $3,000—the Datacenter Edition is not

available except through OEM providers so it is not a consideration here. Microsoft

offers specialized versions of its server operating systems, such as the Web Edition that

sells for about $400, but it is limited to Web Server functionality. Microsoft’s Virtual

Server 2005 is approximately $500 for the Standard Edition and $1,000 for the Enterprise

Edition. Choosing the right operating system configurations can result in significant TCO

savings (Microsoft, 2004b). In addition to saving on hardware costs, server consolidation

is believed to reduce people costs (DeSalvo, 2002) by simplifying or reducing server-

management requirements. Phelps states, “More than 70 percent of the potential savings

from a server consolidation project come from reduced staffing requirements” (2002b).
                                             Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   15


                             Conclusion and Recommendation

       Server consolidation involves the logical, physical, or rationalized consolidation

of servers by consolidating control, location, or hardware. Although most server-

consolidation strategies will involve aspects of all three, rationalized server consolidation

is the only server consolidation methodology that actually reduces the number of physical

servers. Rationalized server consolidation depends on technologies such as clustering,

workload management, and partitioning.

       Although server consolidation may not be the best alternative for reducing costs

(Chuba, 2003) in all situations, it can be the right solution where physical space, power,

or cooling are limited or when increased availability can limit losses caused by hardware

failures. Server consolidation can also make some solutions economically feasible, such

as when an ISP hosts multiple virtual Web servers (Posey, 2003) on a single high-

performance machine or cluster. The cost of a high-performance machine would

outweigh the financial gains for all but the busiest Web servers, but consolidation allows

the cost to be distributed among many others.

       Microsoft’s Windows 2003 Server operating systems offer cost-effective

solutions for many server-consolidation scenarios including network load balancing,

workload management, and server partitioning. All of the Windows 2003 Server

operating system editions support network load balancing, while true workload

management is only available in the Enterprise and Datacenter Editions. Server

partitioning is directly supported by any of Microsoft’s operating systems, but is

supported by using Microsoft’s Virtual Server 2005 application with one of Microsoft’s

server operating systems as the host operating system.
                                              Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   16


       Pricing for Microsoft’s operating systems varies widely depending on the

operating system edition and the licensing model. Server consolidation can result in

direct TCO reduction through reduced hardware requirements and the associated facilities

savings in space, power, and cooling; but the most significant TCO savings are from

personnel reductions that result from consolidating control, consolidating locations, and

reducing the number of managed systems.

       Microsoft’s server operating systems and Virtual Server 2005 product can make

rationalized server consolidation economically feasible, but one thing to consider is that

Microsoft’s server-consolidation technologies are still under development. Although it is

possible to engineer a workable solution using the products currently available, the

products are not mature enough to warrant scrapping current, proven configurations just

to reap the benefits of server consolidation. With that in mind, it is currently best to wait

to implement server-consolidation plans using Microsoft’s products until the scheduled

migration or upgrade unless adequate TCO benefits and savings can be guaranteed.
                                            Consolidating Servers: Windows Server™   2003   17


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