Data Center Managers Seek Salvation in Virtualization

More and more data center managers have begun implementing virtualization and server consolidation strategies in an effort to cope with the growing complexities they face today, according to a Symantec report released Tuesday. The survey also found that data managers must confront a plethora of challenges due to “rapidly rising service level agreements (SLAs), staffing difficulties, increasing expenditures anddata center growth.

“Today’s data centers face a truly intimidating — and worsening — set of challenges involving SLAs, data growth, staffing challenges and cost, as revealed by our State of the Data Center report,” said Kris Hagerman, group president of data center management at Symantec.

“The services delivered bydata center professionals have never been more important to their businesses, but at the same time, they are under relentless pressure to do more with less, and within an environment of maddening complexity. Data center managers can transform their data center and manage growing costs and complexity by standardizing on a common software infrastructure — a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the respondents we surveyed.”

SLAs and a Budget Crunch

Of the 800 global data managers Symantec surveyed, 65 percent reported that formal internal SLAs exist in their organization. One-third said the demands of SLAs to provide high levels of speed, agility and availability have rapidly increased.

The research points to challenges including complexity, heterogeneity and staff shortages as the principal drivers of the difficulties meeting SLAs. A little more than half, 51 percent, indicated they have had more difficulty meeting service-level demands during the past two-year period.

Although pressure on data center-related performance has increased, Symantec found that budgets have not increased apace and have played a role in data centers being understaffed. More than two-thirds of managers — 69 percent — reported their data centers have grown at least 5 percent per year, while 11 percent said they had seen growth of 20 percent or more each year. It may not be surprising, therefore, that 52 percent of respondents said they currently are not fully staffed.

Among the managers, the average budget increase over the last two-year period was a slim 7 percent worldwide. Adjusted for inflation, “data center growth has been minimal during the past five years,” Symantec said. Enterprises have been “forced to spend larger portions of the limited budget” to keep business, and that has taken a toll on their ability to innovate and add value to the business.

Staffing problems due to budgetary limits are secondary, however, to managers’ inability to find qualified IT staff cognizant of business issues, researchers found. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they have difficulty finding qualified applicants. Sixty-eight percent said their staffing issues were the result of the data centers becoming too complex to manage.

Virtual Solution

Tightening budgets, however, have led managers to look to server virtualization and consolidation as their primary cost containment strategies, especially in the U.S.

A strong majority of those surveyed, 90 percent, said that they have at begun discussing server virtualization, while 50 percent are in the process of implementing virtualization strategies. Even more, 91 percent, reported discussing server consolidation, and 58 percent have begun implementing consolidation strategies.

The move toward virtualization among data center managers began in 2005 and is not really new, John Enck, a Gartner analyst, told the E-Commerce, because of its high returns on investment (ROI).

“[The benefits are] several major returns on investment. Sever efficiencies increase — you get better use of what you’re paying for. Fewer servers are required because servers are running more efficiently. Uptime improves because virtualization enables easier relocation of workloads for both maintenance and for disaster recovery,” he explained.

As data centers make the transition to virtualization to control costs and manage growth, there is a greater need for tools and technologies to manage both physical and virtual environments in a more consistent and comprehensive manner, Symantec said. Using such tools can empower managers to master the ever increasing complexity of their data centers and provide greater confidence when dealing with SLAs.

A Standard Approach

Data mangers repeatedly spoke of the need for standardization to mitigate data center complexity and better utilize current resources, according to Symantec.

Managers are really seeking a way to reduce the complexity in their data center environment, said Julie Quattro, a Symantec spokesperson.

“These environments are mixed environment, and what [would] really help the data center manager most is if there was a way they could leverage all of the hardware and applications they have in a more centralized fashion,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

“It is standardizing on the your infrastructure software layer,” Quattro added.

Symantec suggested enterprises standardize on a single layer of infrastructure software that supports all major applications, databases, processors and storage and server hardware platforms. Doing so will protect their information and applications, enhance data center service levels, improve storage and server utilization, consistently manage physical and virtual environments and also drive down operational costs, it asserted.

Standardization of software offers some of the same benefits that it does on the hardware side, Enck noted.

“Less complexity always leads to better manageability and control,” he said. “It can also lead to better pricing because you are buying more of the same product — this is certainly true at the hardware level.”

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