I just got back from a conference on "Green IT," with a primary focus on the ways in which server consolidation and virtualization can reduce power consumption in our industry. When I say "our industry," I'm referring to information technology in general, though, and not ed tech.
In the business world, data centers and server rooms consume extraordinary amounts of power. In fact, the cost of running servers over their lifecycle is now exceeding their acquisition costs. Data center power consumption is a huge cost center for large organizations, but what about the average school district? How many servers are you running? Two, three, ten?
For us, consolidating servers means easier management and, potentially more flexibility, easier disaster recovery, etc. Virtualization is just one of those things that's pretty slick and slowly trickling from mainstream business down to educational markets. It's easy to sell us as IT folks since ultimately it has the potential to make our jobs easier. Both desktop and server virtualization (just as we saw with the use of Terminal Services and RDP to replace "fat desktops") can save us time and hassle in terms of deployment.
However, consolidating servers requires acquisition costs. These costs are easily justified if you have 200 servers based on energy costs alone. If you have five, it's a little tougher. Then, the only way to reasonably justify it is as part of normal lifecycle replacement of your servers; if their lifecycles are staggered, this means that you need to justify a long-term plan with some potentially significant upfront costs to the powers that be.
Talk back below if you've had good luck with server or desktop virtualization. I know it can work; we all do. I'd like to hear some real success stories from Ed Tech, though.