Symantec Survey Shows Data Center Managers Must Still Do More with Less

Demands rising, but IT isn’t standing still

Symantec Corporation’s second annual State of the Data Center makes it clear that the demands on the data center manager have increased, though the nature of these demands remains little changed since last year. Applications (half of which respondents say are mission critical) continue to multiply; storage demands are growing (storage doubled to a median of 200 terabytes of storage per enterprise), and disaster recovery plans still need attention.

“Companies continue to ask IT to do more with less,” Marty Ward, senior director of product marketing for data protection software at Symantec, told Enterprise Strategies. “Staffing was the other big issue for companies last year. To make matters worse, over three quarters of companies say user expectations are rising.”

IT isn’t standing still, of course, considering or testing everything from server virtualization and storage services to deduplication and staff training. Even so, 60 percent of respondents said meeting service levels are getting more difficult to meet.

The survey looked at data center staff at 1600 responses from enterprises with more than 5000 employees. Of the respondents, from 21 countries, half were managers, the remainder split between vice presidents and senior vice presidents. The median firm has 500 IT workers (approximately 20 percent are dedicated to the data center) and from 30 to 49 data centers.

Among the key objectives this year: reducing costs (37 percent), improving services levels (18 percent), and improving responsiveness (16 percent). That may be difficult, given that 36 percent reported that their data center was understaffed, and 43 percent say they find it difficult to find qualified applicants. Training is seen as key; 78 percent expect training budgets to rise or remain the same in the next two years. Outsourcing is another solution employed by 45 percent of companies in the Americas and by 65 percent of firms elsewhere around the globe).

Respondents also said they were trying several initiatives, from increasing automation of routine tasks to server virtualization and consolidation.

Seventy percent said their IT budgets had risen in the last two years, and half said the increase was at least 10 percent. Despite the troubling economy, half of all respondents think their budget will continue to increase over the next two years. Some of that increase will likely be due to rising utility costs: 83 percent said their power costs had risen and 76 percent expect that trend to continue over the next two years. Seventy-two percent said applications costs will be higher and 64 percent said IT service assurance (governance, disaster recovery, security, and compliance) will be more expensive.

“There weren’t a lot of surprises in the results,” Ward told us. We found that servers are still underutilized, and companies still complain about the difficulty of managing servers, troubleshooting downtime, and the growth of data.” For example, nearly half complain that existing virtualization solutions are too new or are immature. Virtual servers have management issues according to 37 percent of respondents.

According to Ward, “Disaster recovery remains a problem for the data center manager. Only just over a third rate their DR plans as ‘above average,’ and a quarter admit their plans need work.” Respondents still point the finger at human error, citing it as the cause of unplanned downtime one-fourth of the time.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the former editorial director of Enterprise Strategies (