Emerson Network Power, a business of Emerson (NYSE: EMR) and the global leader in enabling Business-Critical Continuity, announced the results of its biannual Data Center Users Group (DCUG) survey. The survey results, which include responses from more than 170 data center, facility and IT managers in North America, showed growing concern regarding adequate monitoring and data center management capabilities, as well as continued concern over data center availability and heat density.

“Adequate monitoring and management capabilities” was the No. 1 response to the question, “What are your top three facility/network concerns.” This marks the culmination of monitoring/management’s climb up the list of issues. Three years ago, it ranked sixth among the top issues. It climbed to No. 4 in the 2008 survey and was No. 3 in 2009.

Heat density and availability were second and third in the list of top concerns, followed by energy efficiency and power density. Heat density has remained a significant concern throughout the history of the DCUG survey, but was down 6 percent from last year when it occupied the number one spot.

Availability dropped out of the top three in the spring 2009 survey as energy efficiency and heat density became more pressing concerns. But following a series of high-profile outages, availability/uptime re-emerged in the top three – actually as the No. 1 concern – in the fall 2009 survey. It remained third in 2010, but showed a 6 percent increase compared to spring 2009.

“Data center infrastructure monitoring and management has clearly emerged as a top-of-mind issue for DCUG members,” said Bob Miller, vice president, Emerson Network Power’s Liebert products business in North America, and a member of the Data Center Users’ Group board of directors. “Many in the industry are realizing that monitoring and management systems are key to ensuring availability, improving efficiency, planning for the future and managing change. These tools will continue to grow in importance as organizations seek to optimize efficiency and density without compromising availability.”

Concerns over density and availability were validated when respondents were asked to list the issues they had experienced in the past 12 months. The No. 1 issue listed was “hot spots,” with 40 percent of respondents saying they had experienced this problem. This actually reflects a decrease over previous years – 53% said they experienced hot spots in 2009 and 45% in 2008 – but is still twice as high as the next issue cited, running out of power (26%).

Twenty-three percent of respondents also reported experiencing at least one power outage in the last 12 months. Reasons cited for the outages included weather, human error and equipment failure, while costs were as high as $2 million. The survey also documents the continual issue of data center power densities, with 63% of respondents reporting the maximum power density per rack in their data center is 8 kW or greater. In 2008, that number was 59%, and in 2009 it was 67%.

Finally, the survey highlights the evolution in data center cooling as organizations deploy new and proven technologies capable of supporting higher densities and improving cooling efficiency. These include cold aisle containment (39%), fluid economizers (39%), air economizers (21%) and rack-based cooling (17%).

The DCUG is a group of approximately 2,000 influential data center, IT and facility managers in North America founded by Emerson Network Power in 2003. The group’s membership comprises executives with a wide variety of IT and facilities management expertise from an assortment of companies, including board member companies Vanguard, Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions and JPMorgan Chase, among others.

The survey results were previewed to DCUG members at the annual two-day DCUG spring conference in Chicago. More than 200 DCUG members attended the event, which focused on technologies and best practices that enable data centers to optimize their infrastructure around design, operating and management efficiencies while maintaining or improving availability. Topics discussed included effectively managing data center infrastructure, building an efficient, high-availability data center, demystifying cloud computing, and understanding UPS economy modes.