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IT Tackling Data Center Complexity with Information Governance

A survey released today commissioned by Symantec examined responses from 2,453 organizations in 32 countries to learn how IT organizations are coping with managing their data centers. From security to disaster recovery, server maintenance to managing mobile devices, there’s no shortage of work for a data center manager.

Rating five areas of data center complexity (security, infrastructure, disaster recovery, storage, and compliance) on a scale from 0 (simple) to 10 (highly complex), respondents gave all areas a 6.56 or higher rating; security was rated the most complex, with a score of 7.06. I find it interesting that organizations in Latin America gave overall complexity a score of 7.81; respondents in the Asia-Pacific region and Japan ready complexity the lowest at 6.15. Symantec didn’t speculate on the cause of that difference.

What’s behind the relatively high complexity ratings? Chalk it up to an increasing number of business-critical apps -- so said 65 percent of respondents, with growth of data coming in second at 51 percent, and mobile computing noted by 44 percent of respondents (multiple answers were solicited).

Complexity also leads to higher costs, according to 47 percent of respondents -- something enterprise managers would be well advised to heed. According to the survey, other side effects include “longer lead times for storage migration,” “reduced agility,” and “longer lead times for provisioning storage.”

The most troubling result, however, may be that 35 percent of respondents said that downtime is one of the effects of data center complexity. Uh oh -- but wait, it gets worse. “The typical organization in the report experienced an average of 16 data center outages over the past 12 months, at a cost of $5.1 million. The most common cause of downtime was system failures, followed by human error, and natural disasters.” [emphasis mine]

The challenge is to figure out what IT can do to mitigate such complexity. In its report, Symantec points out that “common activities include staff training; standardizing applications, hardware, and security; increasing budget; and centralizing data centers.” That’s all well and good, but the survey found that the single biggest mitigation step enterprises are taking is information governance. For example, 9 percent said they have already implemented information governance, and 23 percent are in the process. Another 23 percent are conducting trials, and 35 percent are discussing the technology.

Survey respondents say they are being driven to launch a governance effort in large part by the need for better security, the availability of new technologies that make information governance easier, as well as the growth of data. They also expect such governance efforts to lead to enhance security (so said 75 percent of respondents), “ease of finding the right information in a timely manner” (70 percent), “reduced information management costs” (69 percent), and lower storage costs (68 percent), among other benefits.

I asked Symantec why governance emerged at the top of enterprises’ list of approaches to mitigate data center complexity. After all, governance has a been a big issue for IT for several years. It wasn’t so long ago that Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA demanded IT’s attention.

Trevor Daughney, director of product marketing at Symantec, said it was due to the fact that information governance equips organizations with the ability to reduce the risks related to eDiscovery and compliance and allows them to consolidate previously discrete portions of IT operations.

“Symantec provides federated search and a common classification engine across critical data sources to bring context and relevance to information so organizations can find what they need, when they need it, and appropriately enforce policies and controls. The ability to centrally manage security, information retention, and eDiscovery functions also reduces operational expenses and training costs,” Daughney told me.

Is governance enough? Symantec said it begins with information governance and establishing C-level ownership. Organizations should start with high-ROI projects such as data loss prevention, archiving, and eDiscovery to preserve critical information, but they shouldn’t stop there. Companies also need to get visibility beyond platforms and understand the business services that IT is providing. These efforts will help IT to mitigate the effects of data center complexity.

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 09/17/2012 at 11:53 AM