Data Centers' Biggest Challenge? Data Growth

It would appear that data growth - not lack of space, power or cooling, is the biggest challenge for large-enterprise data centers heading into 2011, according to new research from Gartner, Inc. The research company says this growth is the biggest data center hardware infrastructure challenge with 47 percent of respondents putting it in their top three challenges, followed by system performance and scalability at 37 percent, and network congestion and connectivity architecture at 36 percent. Ga

November 3, 2010

3 Min Read
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It would appear that data growth - not lack of space, power or cooling, is the biggest challenge for large-enterprise data centers heading into 2011, according to new research from Gartner, Inc. The research company says this growth is the biggest data center hardware infrastructure challenge with 47 percent of  respondents putting it in their top three challenges, followed by system performance and scalability at 37 percent, and network congestion and connectivity architecture at 36 percent. Gartner's "User Survey Analysis: Key Trends Shaping the Future of Data Center Infrastructure Through 2011"  presents the survey results of 1,004 large enterprises from eight countries and found that 62 percent will be investing in data archiving or retirement by the end of 2011 to address the data growth challenge.

Gartner's April Adams, research director, data center transformation & security technology and service provider research, notes that 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. With cost containment remains a key focus for most organizations, positioning technologies to show that they are tightly linked to cost containment, in addition to their other benefits, is a promising approach, she adds.

"With more and more IT organizations focusing on (and in many cases being measured on) business metrics, technology and service providers will want to ensure that they're doing a good job communicating not only the technological benefits of their solutions, but also how they impact opex (for example, by improving management capabilities or reducing power requirements) or otherwise improve ROI," says Adams.

She adds that data growth was reported as the biggest data center hardware infrastructure challenge by large enterprises in almost every market segment they evaluated in this survey was not a surprise. "It supports what Gartner has observed generally - that many large organizations have been struggling with the management of data given significant growth in the unstructured data."

In addition to data archiving and retirement projects, other high-ranking IT projects that address the issue of data growth are data security, storage consolidation, storage management tools, and data reduction techniques.The second-biggest data center infrastructure challenge is system performance and scalability. Gartner expects IT organizations to be challenged to support the various growth initiatives as a result of deferred infrastructure upgrades and extended technology refresh cycles in 2009. As a result, they are now dealing with an aging infrastructure or, in some cases, product obsolescence.

Network congestion and connectivity architecture were the next-biggest challenge, driven by next-generation servers with multicore processors and virtualization that require significantly high input/output (I/O). Further exacerbating the connectivity situation is the growth in staff working remotely or going mobile.

The survey found that the three most important drivers of strategic change in data centers were business continuity and availability (50 percent of respondents), followed by cost containment initiatives (37 percent) and maintaining or improving user service levels and satisfaction (36 percent). More than half of the respondents plan to expand capacity at their existing data center site by the end of 2011, and 30 percent plan to build new data centers. The top three technologies that respondents plan to invest in through 2011 are server virtualization (67 percent), application consolidation or rationalization (56 percent) and blade servers (51 percent).

Adams says technologies such as data de-duplication, archiving and thin provisioning (which is enabled by virtualization) can be very helpful for users trying to address data growth issues while at the same time maintaining their cost containment initiatives.

While Gartner did conduct a detailed research into enterprise IT spending budgets earlier in the year, this particular survey of large enterprises asked only to whether the respondent's total IT budget for next year was expected to increase, decrease or stay the same relative to the current year. 44 percent of respondents said it was going to increase, 14 percent said it would decrease, 40 percent said it would stay the same and 2 percent did not know. 

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