Data growth is the biggest data center hardware infrastructure challenge for large enterprises, according to a recent survey by Gartner, Inc. Forty-seven percent of survey respondents ranked data growth in their top three challenges, followed by system performance and scalability at 37%, and network congestion and connectivity architecture at 36%. Sixty-two percent of respondents reported that they will be investing in data archiving or retirement by the end of 2011 to address the data growth challenge.
"While all the top data center hardware infrastructure challenges impact cost to some degree, data growth is particularly associated with increased costs relative to hardware, software, associated maintenance, administration and services," said April Adams, research director at Gartner. "Given that cost containment remains a key focus for most organisations, positioning technologies to show that they are tightly linked to cost containment, in addition to their other benefits, is a promising approach."
The survey findings suggest that data archiving and retirement projects are the most popular response to this challenge, with 62% of the global respondents reporting that they will begin investing in such projects or continue their current investment in them through year-end 2011. Other high-ranking IT projects that will be employed to address the issue of data growth are data security from internal, external or hacker risk; storage consolidation; storage management tools; and data reduction techniques.
System performance and scalability emerged as the second-biggest data center infrastructure challenge in the survey. "As the global economy begins to revive in 2010 and organisations start to shift focus to a return to growth, IT organisations will be challenged to support the various growth initiatives," says Naveen Mishra, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Many data center managers were forced to defer infrastructure upgrades and extend technology refresh cycles in 2009 and, as a result, are now dealing with an aging infrastructure or, in some cases, product obsolescence. Vendors wishing to tap into this reopening market should propose infrastructure solutions that are high in efficiency and offer scalability as the demand grows, thus helping the companies to prepare for a return to growth."
Network congestion and connectivity architecture were the third-biggest data center infrastructure challenge. The new generation of servers with multicore processors demand significantly high input/output (I/O), and if these servers are virtualized, this requirement further goes up. The traditional LAN switches are not designed to meet this sudden upsurge in network demand, because there are only a few switches with 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. Increased reliance on WAN can be another trigger for network-related challenges as users are consolidating their IT systems, especially as individual users are increasingly working remotely or going mobile.
"While survey respondents reported that their top challenge with respect to their data center infrastructure was data growth, they did not rank 'existing data center at or nearing capacity and/or utilization limits' as one of their top drivers for strategic change in the data center," says Adams. "Rather, when we asked respondents what the three most important drivers of strategic change in their organisation's data center would be through the end of 2011, business continuity and availability came in first, with 50% of respondents."
The second and third most commonly mentioned drivers were cost containment initiatives — with 37% of respondents — and maintaining or improving user service levels and satisfaction — with 36% of respondents.
More than half of the survey respondents plan to expand capacity at their existing data center site by the end of 2011, and 30% plan to build new data centers, although there is wide variance by respondent country. The top three technologies that respondents plan to invest in through 2011 are server virtualization (67%), application consolidation or rationalization (56%) and blade servers (51%).
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