Data Center Innovation in Small & Medium Businesses

30 Jun

Data centre innovation in mid-sized Enterprises 
Raymond Goh, Regional Technical Director, Systems Engineering and Customer Advisory Services, Symantec

The Symantec 2010 State of the Data Centre report reveals some interesting findings as the economy emerges from the deepest recession.

Overall, it would appear that data centres are at a crossroads. Whilst undoubtedly the state of the economy has put pressure on budgets, companies have sought to become more innovative to get more from their investment in IT.

Whilst data centre managers have been grappling with the deployment of innovative new technologies, such as virtualisation and cloud computing, to make their IT infrastructures do more with less during last year’s economic downturn, the severe lack of qualified staff has caused major roadblocks.  Below are some of the major findings from across the APJ region.

Mid-Size Enterprises Lead the Way

Mid-sized enterprises are evidently the vanguards of the data centre with a greater aggression for adopting new technology, introducing data centre changes and allocating resources, in comparison to their larger and smaller counterparts. 

69 percent of small enterprises and 71 percent of large enterprises are involved in continuous data protection (CDP), compared to a massive 83 percent of mid-sized organizations pursuing CDP.  The same trend held true for cloud computing, server virtualization and every other technology area.

Overall, 41 percent of IT managers anticipated ‘significant changes’ within their data centre in 2010. However this figure was skewed heavily by the 53 percent of mid-sized enterprises anticipating this to be the case versus 41 percent for large organisations, and just 34 percent for small enterprises.

A combination of adequate resources, greater agility and a risk adverse nature, has clearly equipped mid-sized companies with the ability to make the most of new technologies.  Whilst larger enterprises often find themselves burdened with several rounds of evaluation before deployment of new technology is possible, and smaller companies lack the resources and funding to deploy, a mid-sized environment is undoubtedly more conducive to the deployment of new technology.

Who Said Data Centres were Dull?

This year’s study continues to see IT managers struggling with data centre complexity. When asked to name the biggest impediments to staff productivity, 36 percent said ‘too many applications’ was a ‘big’ or ‘huge’ problem. Furthermore, 34 per cent indicated ‘data centres becoming too complex to manage easily’ was a ‘big’ or ‘huge’ problem.  The data centre is also working on an extremely large number of new technology initiatives. In fact, two-thirds (66 percent) listed ‘10 or more’ key initiatives for 2010.

The sheer volume of data being generated and collected, alongside the growing need for more real-time information, was cited as the major reasons for this increased level of complexity and growing demands.

Severe Skills Shortage

Similar to last year’s findings, data centres are still not properly staffed.  Almost half the respondents report being somewhat/extremely understaffed overall. Furthermore, 79 percent have the same or more open job requisitions compared to 12 months ago.

In terms of specific skills, networking, storage management and virtualization are the most impacted rated as somewhat/extremely understaffed by 44, 42 and 41 percent respectively. Security and systems management also had 41 percent indicate that they were understaffed.   Budgets and finding qualified applicants remain the biggest roadblocks to resolving these issues.

Preparing for the Future

To keep pace with today’s ever changing environment, it is not enough to just extinguish fires, you have to prepare for the future. Disaster recovery is an area that requires more attention and significant room for improvement.  The fact that a typical enterprise admitted to having experience two downtime events in the past 12 months is obviously not enough to spur them into action with one third admitting that their disaster recovery plan is either undocumented or needs work. It was also alarming to note that often, important areas such as virtual servers, remote offices and cloud computing were excluded from the plan.


Coping with Complexity

Businesses today have to contend with an increasingly complex IT infrastructure – more applications, more servers, more data and a more heterogeneous environment.  Not to mention increased demands for real-time data.   And they have to do all of this in a way that uses resources efficiently, with fewer staff and out of proportion budgets.  Whilst it is clear from this report that most have started to experiment with new technologies to help drive greater flexibility within the data centre, there are a few areas where companies can innovate further to reduce some of this complexity.

Software that supports heterogeneous environments is particularly important for mid-sized enterprises that are aggressively adopting new technologies, but typically don’t have the staffing expertise of large enterprises.

Storage is a key area that needs to be addressed. For a start, deploying deduplication close to the information source will help eliminate redundant data, reduce storage and network costs. In a similar vein, adopting new technology such as storage resource management, thin provisioning, storage virtualization and continuous data protection and recovery will help manage storage across heterogeneous server and storage environments in a way that enables them to stop buying more and more storage. Organisations should also deploy a single, unified platform for physical and virtual machine protection to simplify information management

Just in case it all goes wrong, disaster recovery testing is vital. However, testing, although necessary, can significantly impact business if not carried out effectively. Therefore, enterprises should seek to improve the success of testing by evaluating and implementing testing methods which are non-disruptive and can be performed regularly to ensure the disaster recovery plan works as it should.

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Posted by on June 30, 2010 in Symantec


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