Symantec advisory: While data center managers adopt virtualization, they face a skills shortage

The primary challenges for data center managers are stringent internal service-level agreements, ongoing data center growth, and staffing issues, including finding qualified people to execute virtualization strategies.

By Manufacturing Business Technology Staff November 5, 2007

Symantec ‘s worldwide State of the Data Center research report indicate data center managers are implementing virtualization and server consolidation strategies to handle growing complexities. The report also suggests that these same managers face onerous and complicated challenges resulting from rapidly rising service-level agreements (SLA); staffing difficulties; increasing expenditures; and data center growth.
Research results suggest the primary challenges for data center managers are stringent internal SLAs, ongoing data center growth, and staffing issues. Budget growth is not keeping pace with data center growth, while stringent SLAs mean data centers must deliver with speed, agility, and availability.
While increased SLAs may indicate the value IT can deliver to the business, if unmet, the performance of the business may suffer.
Symantec offers these numbers:
• 65 percent of respondents report formal internal SLAs exist in their organization;
• 32 percent say service-level demands have rapidly increased; and
• 51 percent say they’ve had more difficulty meeting service-level demands in the past two-year period.
The research suggests that complexity, heterogeneity, and an ongoing skill shortage are driving the difficulty in meeting SLAs. Both qualitative and quantitative research shows that finding qualified IT staff who understand business issues is more problematic than the understaffing problems caused by budget constraints.
To add to these challenges, data center growth is persistent and expected to continue, driving enormous costs. Research shows that Global 2000 enterprises are spending more than $6.6 billion annually to help manage data center complexity.
More numbers:
• 52 percent of respondents say their data centers are understaffed.
• 69 percent say their data centers are growing at least 5 percent per year, while 11 percent report 20-percent growth or more per year.
• The average reported budget increase during the last two-year period is a modest 7 percent worldwide.
Once adjusted for an average rate of 3-percent inflation, data center budget growth has been minimal during the past five years. Organizations are forced to spend larger portions of their limited budget to keep the business up and running, as opposed to innovating and adding value to the business.
Server virtualization and consolidation are considered top cost containment strategies for the majority of respondents, particularly in the United States. As data center managers turn to virtualization to contain costs and manage growth, there is a clear need for tools and technologies to manage both physical and virtual environments in a more consistent and comprehensive manner. These solutions can empower data center professionals to master the growing complexity of their data centers, and have greater confidence that they can deliver against the aggressive SLAs that have been set for them.
More numbers:
• 86 percent of respondents have difficulty finding qualified applicants.
• 68 percent say staffing is challenging because data centers are too complex to manage.
• 60 percent believe staff skill sets are too narrow.
• 57 percent say employees’ skills do not match their current needs.
Symantec recommends companies standardize on a single layer of infrastructure software that supports all major applications, databases, processors, and storage and server hardware platforms, to protect their information and applications, enhance data center service levels, improve storage and server utilization, consistently manage physical and virtual environments, and drive down operational cost.
“Today’s data centers face a truly intimidating and worsening set of challenges involving SLAs, data growth, staffing challenges and cost, as revealed by our State of the Data Center report,” says Kris Hagerman, group president, Data Center Management, Symantec. “The services delivered by data center professionals have never been more important to their businesses, but at the same time, they are under relentless pressure to do more with less, and within an environment of maddening complexity. Data center managers can transform their data center and manage growing costs and complexity by standardizing on a common software infrastructure: a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the respondents we surveyed.”