Security firm Symantec announced on Tuesday it has released the findings of its 2008 State of the Data Center report.
The study revealed that data center managers are conflicted by more demanding user expectations and higher levels of performance, while ultimately challenged by their primary objective of reducing costs.
The results of Symantec's second annual State of the Data Center report is based on a survey conducted in September and October 2008 by Applied Research, which surveyed 1,600 data center managers in Global 5000 and large public sector institutions located in 21 countries.
Data center staffing remains to be a significant issue while servers and storage continue to be underused and disaster recovery plans are out of date, says the report.
Finally, the survey respondents said that while they are pursuing green data center initiatives, they are doing so primarily based on cost benefits.
"This research confirms what we are seeing in the field," says Rob Soderbery, senior vice president of Symantec's storage and availability management group. "Attention has turned to initiatives that will drive immediate cost reduction, rather than longer term ROI driven programs. Storage has been a primary focus of these initiatives as the demand for capacity continues to rise, despite economic challenges."
Of those surveyed, 75 percent said that user expectations are increasing gradually or rapidly. Additionally, 60 percent said they saw meeting the service levels demanded by the organization to be more difficult or much more difficult to meet, while only 10 percent saw service levels to be easier to meet.
The data center managers surveyed said that reducing costs was by far the most important goal for 2008, mentioning it more than the next two objectives -- improving service levels and improving responsiveness -- combined.
The key initiatives data centers are pursuing to "do more with less" include automation of routine tasks, mentioned by 42 percent of respondents, cross-training staff, mentioned by 40 percent and reducing data center complexity, mentioned by 35 percent.
Staffing remains a significant issue with 36 percent of respondents reporting that they are understaffed compared to only 4 percent that reported being overstaffed. Finally, 43 percent say finding qualified applicants is a big or huge problem.
Companies are turning to outsourcing and training to resolve the staffing issue. Fourty-five percent of respondants said that they are outsourcing primarily to give data center staff more time to focus on other tasks.
Meanwhile, 68 percent of the respondents said that training is strategic, with 78 percent expecting training budgets to incrase or stay constant over the next two years.
Companies said that their data center servers were operating at only 53 percent of capacity, while reporting that data center storage use at 50 percent.
The major server-related initiatives include server consolidation, mentioned by 80 percent of respondents, and server virtualization, mentioned by 77 percent.
In the area of storage, storage virtualization was mentioned by 76 percent of respondents, continuous data protection by 71 percent and storage resource management by 71 percent.
The focus of data centers "being green" continues to be important, driving cost issues in 2008. When asked why creating a green data center was important to their workplace, 54 percent of respondents cited reducing electricity consumption as the most important reason, while 51 percent said reducing cooling costs and 42 percent said a sense of responsibility to the community.
This year's study shows the continuing importance for companies to control data center complexity and costs.
Companies have pledged to do more with less, struggling to find solutions that have an immediate effect on cost and efficiency.
According to Soderbery, managers and executives have a great challenge ahead of them as "cost reduction is a non-negotiable objective this year, while user expectations remain high and demand continues to rise."
Those interested in viewing the complete 2008 and 2007 State of the Data Center reports or review additional State of the Data Center resources can visit the State of the Data Center online press kit.
In October, Hewlett-Packard topped the "Green Data Center" Vendor Matrix, an analytical tool developed by ABI Research as a clear rating of vendor position in specific markets.
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