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IT admins: we don't need no stinkin' servers

Cloud says shops want clouds

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Here's a newsflash. A company that rents server capacity for a living and who hosts such questionable customers as El Reg has commissioned a poll of IT shops and found that half of them wish they would never have to buy another server again.

Everybody calm down. With that kind of talk, cloud computing could just turn out to be something real, and the server and chip makers of the world (who happen to buy advertising) would go from millions of customers down to about a dozen. You don't really want to live in that cyberpunk world you read about in the 1980s, do you? (Of course you do. Stupid question).

Rackspace wants to live in that cyberpunk world with one giant network and hackers roaming around with their consoles too, and hence its No More Servers marketing campaign. As part of that campaign, Rackspace commissioned LoudHouse to chat with system administrators and other parties involved in buying and managing servers for their companies - and they are a pretty grumpy lot, it seems. The survey was done in September and the data presented in the report (which just came out this week) is based on input from 218 respondents in the United Kingdom and 223 respondents in the United States.

Of the IT shops that LoudHouse chatted up, 51 per cent agreed in the affirmative that they would love to be able to never buy another server again. The reason, as you well know, system administrators of the world, is that servers are a tremendous pain in the ass. (Well, more precisely, their operating systems are. Iron very rarely does something wrong.) They just also happen to be the means of conducting business, so we all put up with them.

The average respondent to the survey on both sides of the pond (a mathematical creation, I realize) said that 26 per cent of their IT team's time was spent on troubleshooting server issues, with another 33 per cent being spent on general server management. Another 27 per cent of the IT team's time was spent on "strategic, value-added activities," and a surprising 14 per cent was spent working on Other. Presumably this involves reading El Reg online or catching a nap in the man-cave set up behind the server racks down in the data center. (There's a couch and HDTV back there, too.)

While board-level directives to cut IT spending were cited by 65 per cent of respondents to the Rackspace survey, and 66 per cent said making IT more flexible was an issue, 58 per cent of those polled said that it was a hassle managing servers. The bones stuck in system administrators' throats include having to keep servers available 24x7, dealing with hardware issues and maintenance, coping with after-hours tech support calls, buying and maintaining servers, dealing with space and power constraints, performing capacity planning, and coping with low server utilization. Some 15 per cent of respondents admitted that they had bought too many servers and wasted money and 36 per cent said they have bought too little capacity to meet their needs.

What I can't figure out is why these people haven't been fired and replaced by someone who loves servers and is grateful that their job hasn't been outsourced to Rackspace or some other hosting, er, cloud provider. ®

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