On January 14th, I hosted a Mission Critical webinar dedicated to a seemingly old-fashioned data center topic, reliability. It seems that amid all the talk about saving energy, end users still value reliability, first, last, and in between.

Our speakers, Peter Gross and Robert Arno of HP and Peter Curtis of Power Management Concepts held more than 90 percent of the attendees for more than an hour, as they discussed aspects of reliability, the growth of facilities defined as mission critical, and key ways to attain high reliability levels. ASCO Power Technologies sponsored the event, which is archived on the Mission Critical website at http:webinars.missioncriticalmagazine.com.

Thanks to a poll of webinar viewers, we learned that:

  • Almost 20 percent of poll respondents had at least two downtime incidents in 2008.

  • More than half these incidents could be attributed to human error, installation error, or poor maintenance. In other words, the downtime could have been avoided.

  • 60 percent had no training program.

  • 2/3 of those responding could not say that there training program was effective.
Mission Critical and many other organizations, including Power Management Concepts, offer training programs just to help reduce these problems. Many of the programs are available on line. No wonder energy efficiency often seems so difficult. To organizations experiencing more than two downtime incidents per year, energy efficiency must seem absolutely unattainable.

At about the same time in January, Symantec released its 2008 State of the Art Data Center report, which was widely reported and is available on both the Symantec and Mission Critical websites.

The report states that respondents believe that they are being asked to do more with less, and staffing remains a big issue, probably because of a lack of trained personnel (there’s that phrase again). In fact 78 perent expect larger training budgets.

The respondents believe they will be asked to improve service levels (18 percent) in 2009, increase availability (11 percent), and improve responsiveness (16 percent), while controlling costs (37 percent).

Still it is noteworthy that by large majorities the respondents to this survey expected increases in budgets for power, IT service assurance, facilities, infrastructure, and applications. So much for doing more with less. I can also speculate that these seemingly contradictory poll results say that Symantec’s respondents will be doing a lot more with more.

Here again, human error comes into the equation, as the Symantec report also found it to be the most significant cause of downtime (25 percent). Symantec did not ask about the effectiveness of training programs, but 36 percent of respondents lacked any real confidence in their disaster plan and additional 1⁄3 described their plan as average. Would it be fair to conclude that ²⁄3 of these companies are relying on disaster plans that won’t work? I think so.

Little wonder then that data center personnel see green activities as cost-reduction plans to be implemented secondarily. They still have their hands full meeting growing reliability and availability requirements.

If you still haven’t viewed Mission Critical’s  reliability webinar, it’s not too late. Visit webinars.missioncriticalmagazine.com.