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Information Unleashed

State of the Data Center Survey Reveals Increasing IT Complexity

Created: 16 Sep 2012 • Updated: 17 Sep 2012
Danny Milrad's picture
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Few people would disagree with the statement that our world is becoming more complex, and this is especially apparent in the data center. With new technology being rapidly adopted, from mobile devices to cloud computing, businesses are struggling to integrate new solutions that promise increased productivity and cost-savings, while managing ever-growing amounts of information. In order to assess how well organizations are dealing with these changes, we developed the 2012 State of the Data Center Survey.

This is the fifth year that Symantec has run the survey.  To highlight how far IT organizations have come in such a short period of time we only need to look back to the complexities and initiatives to simplify.  With server and storage sprawl at its all-time high, IT organizations were consolidating storage and servers at a feverish pace.  At the same time, in 2007 we saw the iPhone introduced, shepherding in a new era of mobile computing.  2007 was also the year VMware had its IPO and introduced the world to enterprise class virtualization. 

Both of these technologies saw tremendous adoption curves over the past five years.  The challenge, however, was the unexpected impact that those adoption curves would cause.  With more users taking advantage of the iPhone and later iPad, the use of cloud-based sync and share services like Dropbox and Box.net created challenges in controlling information sprawl, putting a strain on information governance policies.  And with more applications being deemed “business critical” and most likely virtualized, the amount of storage, security and data protection meant the benefits of virtualization were offset by the complexity this new environment introduced.  As we saw in a survey earlier this year, the average enterprise is using seven different backup and recovery products. With so many tools, different interfaces and more products to learn it’s no wonder things have gotten more complex.

In 2012, Symantec’s State of the Data Center Survey confirmed that data center complexity is increasing - and its effects are far-reaching in businesses today. Its impact is especially pronounced in the areas of security and infrastructure. We asked about the complexity in different areas of IT, and respondents rated every area 6.7 or higher out of 10 in complexity. The highest rating was for the area of security, at 7.1, followed by infrastructure, disaster recovery, storage and compliance.

Data Center Complexity Is Increasing, with Far-Reaching Results

We also asked respondents about what factors are driving this data center complexity. For one thing, two-thirds of businesses reported having to deal with a larger number of business-critical applications. Adding to this are some of the larger trends in technology today, such as mobility (which was identified by 44 percent of respondents), server virtualization (43 percent) and public cloud (41 percent).

These drivers are having a significant impact on the business. Higher costs were the most significant effect, reported by nearly half of organizations. More than one-third also cited reduced agility, longer lead times for storage migration and provisioning storage, security breaches and downtime as additional results of increased data center complexity. These are all factors IT organizations hoped to improve upon by virtualizing and using cloud-based services. In terms of outages, on average businesses surveyed experienced 16 data center outages within the previous year, costing them $5.1 million.

Responding to the Complexity

To respond to this complexity, IT departments are implementing measures such as training, standardization, centralization and virtualization, and they are also increasing budgets. As part of their overall strategy, nine out of ten organizations are also at least considering implementing an information governance program. In addition to complexity, other reasons for this include new technologies to make information governance easier, data growth, and regulatory and legal issues.

Respondents also cited several goals they hope to achieve through information governance, such as enhanced security (which was rated as important by three-quarters of respondents), making it easier to quickly find information (70 percent), reducing information management costs (69 percent) and storage costs (68 percent), decreasing legal risks (65 percent) and compliance risks (64 percent), and a move to the cloud (59 percent).

Reining in Data Center Complexity

While eliminating this complexity is unlikely, organizations can take several steps to reduce its effects. We recommend the following:

  • Establish C-level ownership of information governance.  Start with high-ROI projects like data loss prevention, archiving and eDiscovery to preserve critical information, find what you need and delete the rest.
  • Get visibility beyond platforms.  Understand the business services that IT is providing and all of the dependencies to reduce downtime and miscommunications.
  • Understand what IT assets you have, how they are being consumed, and by whom.  This will help cut costs and risk.  The organization won’t buy servers and storage it doesn’t need, teams can be held accountable for what they use, and the company can be sure it isn’t running out of capacity.
  • Reduce the number of backup applications to meet recovery SLAs and reduce capital expenses, operating expenses and training costs.
  • Deploy deduplication everywhere to help address the information explosion and reduce the rising costs associated with backing up data.
  • Use appliances to simplify backup and recovery operations across physical and virtual machines.

For additional information, the full 2012 State of the Data Center report can be found here (PDF), or by visiting the 2012 State of the Data Center Press Kit.