Symantec Corp. has announced that 79 percent of organizations report increasing complexity in the data center, according to the results of its 2012 State of the Data Center Survey. The survey, which provides insight into the top challenges organizations are grappling with as the data center continues to transform, highlights the underlying drivers of data center complexity, current impacts on the business, and the latest initiatives IT is adopting to mitigate the issues. While the cause of data center complexity stems from a variety of factors, respondents identify implementing an information governance strategy as the main initiative organizations are taking to address data center growing pains. The State of the Data Center findings emphasize the importance of taking steps to intelligently manage organizational resources to rein in operational costs and control information growth.
“As today’s businesses generate more information and introduce new technologies into the data center, these changes can either act as a sail to catch the wind and accelerate growth, or an anchor holding organizations back,” said Brian Dye, vice president, Information Intelligence Group, Symantec Corp. “The difference is up to organizations, which can meet the challenges head on by implementing controls such as standardization or establishing an information governance strategy to keep information from becoming a liability.”
Organizations of all sizes, industries and regions report increasing complexity within the data center. According to the survey, data center complexity impacts all areas of computing, most notably security and infrastructure, as well as disaster recovery, storage and compliance. Respondents rated complexity across all areas fairly evenly (6.6 or higher out of 10), with security topping the list at 7.1. The average level of complexity for companies around the world was 6.7. On average, organizations in the Americas rated complexity highest, at 7.8, and those in Asia-Pacific/Japan rated it lowest at 6.2.
Effects of Data Center Complexity are Diverse and Costly
Several factors are driving data center complexity. First, respondents reported they are dealing with an increasing number of applications that they consider to be business-critical. Sixty-five percent said the number of business-critical applications is increasing or increasing greatly. Other key drivers of data center complexity include the growth of strategic IT trends such as mobile computing (cited by 44 percent of respondents), server virtualization (43 percent), and public cloud (41 percent).
The survey revealed that the effects of growing data center complexity are far reaching. The most commonly mentioned impact is higher costs, with nearly half of the organizations citing it as an effect of complexity. Other impacts include reduced agility (39 percent), longer lead times for storage migration (39 percent) and provisioning storage (38 percent), security breaches (35 percent), and downtime (35 percent).
The typical organization experienced an average of 16 data center outages in the past 12 months, at a total cost of $5.1 million. The most common cause was systems failures, followed by human error, and natural disasters.
IT Taking Steps to Alleviate Complexity
According to the survey, organizations are implementing several measures to reduce complexity, including training, standardization, centralization, virtualization, and increased budgets. In fact, 63 percent of respondents consider increasing their budget to be somewhat or extremely important to dealing with data center complexity. However, the single biggest initiative organizations are undertaking is to implement a comprehensive information governance strategy, defined as a formal program that allows organizations to proactively classify, retain and discover information in order to reduce information risk, reduce the cost of managing information, establish retention policies and streamline their eDiscovery process. Ninety percent of organizations are either discussing information governance, or have implemented trials or actual programs.
The biggest drivers for information governance include security (rated somewhat or extremely important by 75 percent of respondents), the availability of new technologies that make information governance easier (69 percent), increased data center complexity (65 percent), data growth (65 percent), and regulatory and legal issues (61 and 56 percent, respectively).
Organizations have several goals with information governance, including enhanced security (considered important by 75 percent), ease of finding the right information in a timely manner (70 percent), reduced costs of information management (69 percent) and storage (68 percent), reduced legal and compliance risks (65 and 64 percent, respectively), and a move to the cloud (59 percent).
Following are some recommendations that IT can try to mitigate the effects of data center complexity.
• 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.