What Data Center Managers Want This Year

SANpulse Technologies, Inc. has released the results of its December 2010 IT survey of over 100 large enterprises about what data center managers want over the next year as well as the difficult tasks they’re likely to confront in 2011.

The study asked “data center managers and decision makers” to rank their priorities; they also asked individual respondents to list the most challenging projects they’ll face this year.

Among the findings: just over half (51 percent) put “technology refreshes” at the top of their wish list, noting that the “mean time to migrate (MTTM) was critical for rapid adoption of new technologies and fast execution of these operations.” In second place: data center consolidation (cited by 41.5 percent as their top concern).

Topping the “tough issues” list: 39 percent said it was multi-departmental coordination.

Data center managers were in sync with other studies I’ve read about their interest in moving to the cloud (34.5 percent said they intend to migrate to a public or private cloud this year). Almost a third (32.7 percent) expect their data center will move to a virtualized storage area network (SAN), and more than a quarter (26.5 percent) expect to work on SAN optimization or re-tiering.

SAN migrations proved problematic; 41.5 percent said only 0 to 20 percent of their migrations were successful (that is, completed on time and within budget). The percent rises to 62 percent when measuring success for up to 40 percent of migrations.

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 01/25/2011 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Midsize Businesses Increasing IT Budgets, IBM Study Finds

IT budgets will rise over the next 12 to 18 months in over half of the midsize companies surveyed by IBM the company said. Its global study (Inside the Midmarket: A 2011 Perspective) of over 2,000 “business and information technology decision makers” at midsize companies (those with 100 to 1000 employees) in 20 countries found that enterprise priorities include “analytics, cloud computing, collaboration, mobility, and customer relationship solutions,” Big Blue said in a release.

According to the study, 70 percent of midsize companies “are actively pursuing analytics technology to better understand their customers, make better decisions, and become more efficient.” IBM says midsize firms are increasingly adopting cloud computing. Two-thirds of respondents are either planning to deploy or currently use cloud-based technologies; expected benefits include “cost reduction, better manageability of IT, and improved system redundancy and availability.”

Among the other results:

  • Over half (53 percent) anticipate their IT budgets will increase over the next 12 to 18 months; nearly a third (31 percent) think it will remain the same, and 16 percent expect it to decrease or don’t know.

  • Most critical IT priorities cited include security (63 percent), customer relationship management (62 percent), and analytics/information management (59 percent)

  • Three-quarters (75 percent) are planning to “upgrade their core IT systems to improve performance, security, and reliability”

  • IT adoption is hindered by “cost, difficulty in acquiring and deploying technology solutions, and lack of IT skills and resources”

According to Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM Midmarket, the surveyed enterprises have changed their focus. "When we spoke to midsize firms 18 months ago, most were focused on reducing costs and improving efficiencies. Today, the conversation is also about expanding their business, connecting with customers, and gaining greater insights."

In fact, 79 percent say they are concentrated on “customers, growth, and innovation,” and only 21 percent say their strategic mindset is focused on efficiency and controlling costs.

"We've seen a boom in the number of midsize customers within the consumer products space who want to engage with us around analytics and cloud," said Jay Hakami, President and CEO of Sky IT Group, an IBM Business Partner. "IT departments in midsize markets are adapting very fast to that fact that they must do much more with less. Companies are looking to quickly identify tools and efficient ways to support growth and innovation."

You can download the 15-page report here. No registration is required.

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 01/14/2011 at 11:53 AM2 comments

Client Virtualization Technologies Show Positive ROI

With more to do with fewer resources, IT is examining client virtualization to help it control its client infrastructure and keep users happy. Recently released results of a straw poll conducted by CDW show a snapshot of how the technology is being used in IT data centers, what IT managers expect (and what benefits they actually receive), and what roadblocks keep them from maximizing these benefits.

The bottom line: A majority of enterprises are considering or implementing some form of client virtualization, but nearly all are bumping into “challenges” with implementation.

Cost reduction is driving the move to client virtualization according to 61 percent of the over 200 respondents from businesses with more than 100 employees, 57 percent of whom were IT managers; 22 percent identified themselves as IT directors or supervisors. Forty percent noted “easier software distribution, management process” as the key motivator, 38 percent said they wanted to increase IT productivity, and 37 percent said they were employing client virtualization to improve IT support.

The good news is that for those enterprises tracking ROI, the results are positive. For example, 62 percent of all respondents expect the technology to improve their organization’s bottom line, and those who have implemented and track the benefits, reduce their annual IT budget by roughly 20 percent (including energy, hardware, software, and staff time savings). Specifically, 61 percent of organizations working with presentation virtualization -- which enables (typically remote) workers to access applications with a Web portal -- and measuring ROI saved an average of 24 percent of their annual IT budget. That percent is also enjoyed by organizations working with application virtualization (which allows applications to be packaged into a single executable so they run isolated and thus conflict-free). Savings for respondents tracking desktop virtualization ROI said their savings averaged 21 percent.

That’s not enough for many IT organizations, apparently. “Despite these facts, just 28 percent of respondents say that client virtualization is a top IT priority for their business,” CDW points out. Another trouble spot: nearly three-quarters (74 percent) acknowledge that their IT managers understand the benefits, but only 58 percent say those managers understand how to implement the technology. Worse, only a third (35 percent) of organizations is prepared (that is, have an adequate level of trained staff).

Of those planning to implement client virtualization, 32 percent say they’ll virtualize some applications for a select group of users or departments; 31 percent will virtualize some applications for all users. Only 15 percent are daring to virtualize all apps for selected users or departments, and 8 percent are planning to virtualize all apps for all users.

Those are near-term plans; 91 percent of respondents considering or implementing client virtualization will do so within the next 12 to 24 months. Over a third (37 percent) have already conducted their inventory analysis of client devices; 44 percent will do so shortly.

Nearly all respondents who implemented (or are considering) client virtualization hit stumbling blocks. For example, 46 percent say they have had trouble “ensuring the technology will work on an individual level,” and 41 percent had trouble estimating the project’s ROI. Of the 19 respondents who said they were not considering or implementing client virtualization, the leading impediment is that “some of our business applications are not compatible with client virtualization.”

The report can be downloaded here (short registration is required).

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 01/10/2011 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Survey Reveals Enterprise Communication, Collaboration Practices

Dimension Data, a global IT solutions and services provider, has released the results of its survey of video communications deployments. Of the more than 800 IT leaders from organizations that have invested in video collaboration tools, a majority of the tools already in place were wasted -- they are not available to the audiences that need them most, such as remote workers.

The company, which happens to be Cisco’s largest TelePresence reseller, points out that when it comes to communication and collaboration tools, most (87.5 percent) use desk phones, and just over 70 percent use video conferencing and collaboration with Web-based tools.

For “typical” meetings, 86 percent of respondents meet in person, 80.5 percent use audio conferences, and 62.2 percent employ online collaboration solutions. Only 42 percent use video conferencing. For communicating with customers, partners, and suppliers, respondents prefer audio conferencing (91 percent); 90 percent use in-person meetings.

Communication and collaboration planning is lacking: just over a quarter (27.3 percent) are in the first year of their three-year road map, and 14 percent are in the second year. Almost half (48.8 percent) don’t have a road map at all. Far worse: of the rest of the respondents (9.9 percent), the majority don’t know what a communication/collaboration road map is.

At the top of IT’s priority list: 57 percent say reducing costs is their primary priority for 2011, following by improving business processes (51 percent) and improving work effectiveness (36 percent). Perhaps IT should look more closely at instant messaging to improve productivity; IM proved popular in the survey, with 72 percent reporting they use IM as a communication and collaboration solution (74 percent of these enterprises manage it on-premise). Two-thirds of IM users have it integrated such communications into other systems.

The Web is also leading the way. A whopping 96 percent of users employ Web tools (such as Webex, Live Meeting, and SharePoint) to share and edit documents, though more than half believe that less than 20 percent of staff regularly use the collaborations tools available in their enterprise.

Saving money -- including reducing travel expenses and increasing employee productivity -- is driving video conferencing, which 59.8 percent of respondents currently have and use it one out of five times to communicate with “approved customers and partners;” 52 percent use it for internal communications (another 30 percent use it internally and for remote communications).

Video conferencing faces a number of challenges from non-users, respondents noted. Leading the list: 62.5 percent of non-users say bandwidth could be a problem; more than half (57 percent) said justifying the cost would be tough, and 55.7 percent said their tight budget would be a roadblock.

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 12/23/2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Despite Growing Interest, Encryption Remains Small Part of IT Budgets

In a new report, 2010 Annual Study: U.S. Enterprise Encryption Trends, 964 U.S. business and IT managers reveal their current and future needs, how they’re using encryption, and how encryption fits into their overall enterprise data protection strategies. Sponsored by Symantec and conducted by The Ponemon Institute, the report makes clear that compliance with data protection and privacy regulations is the top factor driving implementation of encryption technologies, displacing last year’s winner, data breach mitigation.

Among the key regulations are HIPAA and state privacy laws (including regulations in Massachusetts and California); Sarbanes-Oxley and Graham-Leach-Bliley regulations are less important, the respondents noted. PCI requirements grew the fastest on the list of drivers: 15 percent said PCI was an important driver in 2007 compared to 64 percent who are concerned about PCI today. This may not come as a surprise to anyone; if an enterprise fails to comply it can’t conduct online credit card transactions.

Protection from malicious cyberattacks -- including malware, spyware, viruses, and Trojans -- was cited as the top “overall enterprise data protection priority” in the report; protecting data at rest dropped to second place. Also high on the list was data protection; 93 percent said it’s important or very important in managing risk.

If only enterprises devoted a bigger part of their budget to encryption. The technology isn’t quite getting the attention of IT managers -- it doesn’t earn “earmark” status; perimeter controls such as intrusion detection and prevention systems were the more important technologies to which IT specifically allocated funds. Anti-virus and spyware tools were also popular budget items, as were identity and access management. In fact, data protection as a whole is just a small part of IT’s budget: only 8 percent of respondents said that encryption solutions made up at least 20 percent of their IT spending.

When it comes to encryption, a “platform-based approach to managing encryption solutions and encryption key management are still not common industry practices,” the report notes, but there’s some good news: it’s growing in popularity and gaining respect.

With data cyberattacks and IT implementation challenges at an all-time high, the report acknowledges the tough choices IT must make in the face of shrinking budgets and breaches that averaged $6.75 million per breach and $200 per compromised record to pay for “detection, response, notification, and lost business.” Breaches are becoming more common: 88 percent of organizations had experienced at least one data breach compared to 85 percent in 2009. Among those experiencing a breach, nearly a quarter (23 percent) suffered a single breach, and 40 percent had to handle between two and five breaches. That’s not a pretty picture.

The report can be downloaded at no cost; registration is required, however.

--James E. Powell
Editorial Director, Enterprise Strategies

Posted on 12/07/2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

How Your IT Department Can Provide Value in 2011

IT is often seen as a cost center, not a profit center. It’s a drag on profits, not an enabler of growth. As a result, IT managers should always be looking for ways IT to add value to the enterprise.

If you’re planning your 2011 strategies now, a new report from The Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM) and Accept Corporation may help you determine your direction.

According to The Return to Profitability: 2011 Product Innovation Priorities Report, which focused on corporate innovation performance and 2011 goals for profitability and long-term growth, executives are most concerned about translating strategy into reality (that is, aligning product strategy and business objectives), integrating the voice of their customers, and automating time-intensive and costly processes (including those with Microsoft Word and Excel).

In addition, innovation “is back on the priority list of most executives and has reclaimed its place as the top board room agenda item as this volatility and speed will require organizations to prioritize, develop, and take profitable products to market faster than in previous years.”

Among the survey results that should be of most concern is the high failure rate of products. More than half of executives reported that fewer than half of their product launches were successful over the last three years -- that is, they attained profit, revenue, and market-share goals). When asked why, executives pointed to their failure to incorporate the voice of the customer.

What’s getting in their way? Executives said sharing and collaborating on new ideas was their biggest challenge. They want to “collect and identify viable product ideas faster by engaging key stakeholders,” but they lack “the ability to collaborate with customers.”

Worse, customer feedback collection is “archaic,” according to the report -- sharing business cards at trade shows, with little organized follow-up. You’ve got to be kidding, right? Wrong. Roughly 45 percent of large organizations say they get fewer than half of their product ideas from customers, partners, and suppliers -- the very people whose brains you want to tap.

Communication was another common theme. Because of poor trickle-down communications, product developers are often out of sync with C-suite managers. Executives said that under half of engineering resources were working on the top management priorities. Talk about a disconnect. Over half of executives (51 percent) admit that there is a “probability teams are currently working on the wrong products and the wrong features to begin with.” No wonder product failures are so high.

When it comes to managing innovation, the report reveals more problems. Almost half (48 percent) of respondents believe their businesses will be running at a faster pace, and over a third (38 percent) expect more uncertainty and volatility. Yet almost 70 percent of companies are mired down using manual processes (using Excel and Word) to manage innovation, with no automation tools in place. That explains why automation is among the top priorities for 2011. With shorter innovation cycles, workers need all the relief from drudgery they can get.

The shift away from a project-centric toward a product-centric approach in managing project portfolios is one way many executives see they of adding value when it comes to product portfolio. In fact, 70 percent of respondents indicate they plan to invest in a product portfolio solution to maximize the profitability of their portfolio, create balance, and support their enterprise’s strategy.

How Will Your IT Department Respond?

As an IT manager, there are literally dozens of ways you can help executives.

Some are simple. Adding a feedback page to your Web site is one. Social media is all the rage, and enterprises are continually evaluating these sites to see how they can work to foster stronger customer loyalty and communication. Is this a technology you can use?

Given tight IT budgets, it’s good to know that solutions don’t have to be expensive. In my experience with a scrappy upstart publication, we found that a simple online survey program (a puny $50 investment) helped us get the best ideas -- from our customer base. Yes, there were the “completely agree” to “completely disagree” questions to gauge interest in predefined areas, but of most value were the open-ended questions -- “What three features would you like to see most?” -- provided the best feedback.

Yes, we received the less-than-helpful responses such as “You’re doing fine” or “Don’t change a thing.” That’s heartwarming but of little business value -- not nearly as useful as the roughly five percent of outspoken customers who offered concrete suggestions. We couldn’t execute all of them -- some we had rejected outright as impractical or far-fetched. Still, having open-ended questions let our customers get their creative juices flowing -- at virtually no cost to us. Collecting those ideas was easy. Organizing and prioritizing them less so, but tools exist to help with that, too.

When it comes to automation, I’ve long been a fan of DataPrompter from Wordsite (see my column from earlier this year) for automating monotonous Word documents. I’m investigating a new version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which claims it can cut some production tasks in half (or more). Desktop macro tools (a favorite of mine is Macro Express from Insight Software Solutions) cut down on repetitive keystrokes. Surely these and other tools are worth considering.

The report makes several suggestions that specifically target IT professionals, from investing in an easy, intuitive product portfolio modeling and planning solution to ensuring requirements are properly defined and communicated. Your customers -- your best assets, bar none -- are more than willing to share their thoughts. Just ask them.

The report stresses the importance of collaborating with your customers, including providing continuous updates. That’s easy and can be done at very little cost.

There’s considerable food for thought in the AIPMM/Accept report. The question is -- how will you improve IT’s contribution to your enterprise’s bottom line? The answer may lie in examining what executives say they need most.

The online research survey, conducted in September, received completed responses from 280 executives involved with product management, marketing, and development; nearly a quarter of participants worked at companies with over $1 billion in annual revenue. More than half of participants identified themselves as directors, vice presidents, or at the CxO level. You can download the complete report at no cost (though registration is required) from Accept Corporation’s resource page http://www.accept360.com/resources.

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 12/01/2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Getting Your Money’s Worth with Data Quality Investments

Businesses are demanding more from IT, so it’s no surprise that they want to know if their investments in IT are actually improving the bottom line. Are employees more productive, can the enterprise grow and innovate, or can it plan and forecast more accurately?

The University of Texas at Austin, working with the Indian School of Business, designed a study to answer these very questions. The results of the study, published in Impacts of Effective Data on Business Innovation and Growth and released today, focus on the lifeblood of 150 Fortune 1000 enterprises -- data. The study explored data quality, data accessibility, and the relevance of retrieved data to solving enterprises’ problems -- in other words, what made the data effective and how that impacts the enterprise.

The researchers conclude that there are “often dramatic impacts that even marginal investments in information technology can have when that technology addresses data quality, usability, and intelligence, whether it be using mobility or remote access solutions, analytics or business intelligence solutions, or a combination of the two.”

In the third chapter of the report, the study goes beyond examining the benefits of effective data that we all know. It actually quantifies the financial, customer, and operational impacts of effective data.

“While large-scale investments in Information Technology have certainly helped improve basic data access and quality, our findings suggest that there is still room for major performance gains through additional investments in better data,” the report points out.

Increasing data’s usability of data by just 10 percent can improve median total revenue by more than $2 billion annually directly due to increased employee productivity. The study also found that by making data more accessible, enterprises could realize an average savings of $271 million thanks to better asset utilization (defined as sales divided by total assets).

Investments in your data will likely more than pay for themselves, based on the study’s results. For example, an increase of just 10 percent in data intelligence added an average of $14.7 million in new-customer revenue at the firms studied.

The push for mobile data may also benefit organizations. According to the report, increasing data accessibility and intelligence drives innovation -- the firms studied increased revenue by an average of $17 million thanks to new products or services.

You can read all three parts of the report here http://www.sybase.com/detail?id=1082805. Access is free and requires no registration.

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 11/15/2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments

Annual Survey Examines IT Energy Plans, Attitudes, Results

Technology solutions provider CDW recently released its 2010 Energy Efficient IT Report, showing that IT is serious about controlling energy costs. The study found that three-quarters of U.S. organizations are working to reduce energy use in IT operations -- from deploying more power-efficient switches to using their network as an energy management platform.

The third in CDW’s annual surveys -- this year of 756 IT professionals who purchase IT equipment for public or private sector enterprises -- was conducted in July and focuses on energy efficiency’s position among competing IT priorities, what steps enterprises are taking to be more energy efficient, and what challenges get in their way.

It’s no surprise that energy-reduction efforts are being driven by cost savings. According to CDW, “the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that each basic office outfitted with an energy-efficient desktop computer, LCD monitor, and multi-function device such as a printer/copy machine can save $365 throughout the life of the equipment.” It’s also critical if data centers are to grow within the limits of available power sources. That’s probably why 79 percent of organizations either currently have or are developing a strategy for data center consolidation.

Two-thirds of respondents say they are taking at least one of the following actions:

  • Deploying core switches that are more power-efficient

  • Replacing less-efficient switches at the edge or in workgroups

  • Using the network as an energy-management platform

  • Adopting newer technologies, such as 10GB Ethernet and Infiniband

  • Implementing Fibre-channel Over Ethernet

  • Transitioning to top-of-rack models to enable access-layer switching

IT’s efforts are paying off. Of the enterprises actively managing their IT energy use, “56 percent have reduced their annual IT energy costs by 1 percent or more -- up from 39 percent in 2008.” One percent may seem small, but it avoids exceeding available power resources. Furthermore, CDW says data centers “account for 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption at a cost of $4.5 billion annually,” so even a one-percent cut is important. CDW cites a June projection from the EPA that electricity use will double within five years.

The top energy-saving measures used by those organizations with defined energy management programs and at least a one percent energy savings were:

  • Migrating monitors from CRTs to LCDs

  • Buying data center equipment (such as servers) that use processors that consume less power

  • Buying computers with more energy-efficient processors

  • Working with the desktop O/S’s power management tools

  • Redesigning data centers so they balance equipment and cooling needs

The survey also found that 39 percent of respondents say that energy use is a “very important consideration” when evaluating new equipment purchases -- up from 26 percent last year. Vendors take note: only 31 percent of IT managers would be willing to pay a premium for energy-efficient technology.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • Two-thirds believe that an understanding of energy-efficiency best practices for IT is “critical to their profession.”

  • Consolidation is a key technique for cutting consumption: 79 percent of organizations “have or are developing a strategy to consolidate the servers, storage devices, power management tools, and other equipment that comprise data centers,” driven by the need to reduce “data center hardware, software, and operations expenditures” (61 percent) and the goal of reducing energy consumption (60 percent).

  • More than a quarter (27 percent) say that they do not have a way to isolate and measure energy use, and 16 percent complained that if they cut IT energy costs, their budget would be cut by the same amount.

Organizations could do better if, according to a third of respondents (33 percent), their budget was large enough to afford new, more efficient systems “after meeting internal client demands.” Also problematic, according to 32 percent, was that “senior management gives higher priority to other investments.” Almost as many (31 percent) note that energy bills don’t get much attention; one respondent noted that because electricity is included in their lease, there’s no incentive to consume less.

The complete report can be downloaded at no charge at http://www.cdw.com/energyefficientIT. A short registration is required.

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 11/12/2010 at 11:53 AM0 comments