Browse Definitions:

zombie server (comatose server)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A zombie server is a physical server that is running but has no external communications or visibility and contributes no compute resources; essentially, it consumes electricity but serves no useful purpose.

Zombie servers are often created because user-requested applications end up getting no use or almost no use (typically defined as under six percent). Other causes include redundant or legacy applications and services that have been replaced. An estimated one in three servers in North America falls into the "undead" category.

According to a study conducted by the consulting firm Anthesis Group and Jonathan Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University, there are approximately 3.6 million zombie servers in the United States; worldwide, the total could be as high as 10 million. Theoretically, four gigawatts of power could be saved by killing zombie servers. Based on calculations by TSO Logic, a company with 1000 servers could net savings of $300,000. AOL's five-year project to purge its sites of zombie servers netted the organization $10 million and in just one year resulted in a 35 percent reduction in its carbon footprint.

To reduce the server sprawl associated with zombie servers, multiple low-utilization servers may be combined into single virtual servers. Servers that are entirely unused can sometimes be repurposed. Otherwise, IT should just kill the zombie -- by pulling the plug.

Zombie servers are sometimes referred to as comatose servers.

See a brief video about finding and fixing zombie servers:

This was last updated in February 2016

Continue Reading About zombie server (comatose server)

Join the conversation

1 comment

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

I have a few employees with the same problem. I'm thinking of unplugging them....


File Extensions and File Formats


  • risk map (risk heat map)

    A risk map, also known as a risk heat map, is a data visualization tool for communicating specific risks an organization faces.

  • internal audit (IA)

    An internal audit (IA) is an organizational initiative to monitor and analyze its own business operations in order to determine ...

  • pure risk (absolute risk)

    Pure risk, also called absolute risk, is a category of threat that is beyond human control and has only one possible outcome if ...


  • federated identity management (FIM)

    Federated identity management (FIM) is an arrangement that can be made among multiple enterprises to let subscribers use the same...

  • cross-site scripting (XSS)

    Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a type of injection security attack in which an attacker injects data, such as a malicious script, ...

  • firewall

    In computing, a firewall is software or firmware that enforces a set of rules about what data packets will be allowed to enter or...



  • business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR)

    Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) are closely related practices that describe an organization's preparation for ...

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...


  • volume manager

    A volume manager is software within an operating system (OS) that controls capacity allocation for storage arrays.

  • external storage device

    An external storage device, also referred to as auxiliary storage and secondary storage, is a device that contains all the ...

  • NetApp SolidFire

    NetApp SolidFire is a business division of NetApp Inc. that specializes in all-flash storage systems.


  • hybrid hard disk drive (HDD)

    A hybrid hard disk drive is an electromechanical spinning hard disk that contains some amount of NAND Flash memory.