A study conducted by Symantec found that IT professionals worldwide are counting on a variety of technologies, including Information Technology Infrastructure Library frameworks, storage capacity management and virtualization to ease the struggle of dealing with increasing data center complexity in the face of strained resources.
The "State of the Data Center" study, which was conducted in April 2007, surveyed 500 IT professionals from enterprise-class companies in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific.
"IT organizations, data centers and the environments they have to support are becoming more complex and difficult to manage for a couple of key reasons," said Sean Barrington, director of storage management at Symantec in Cupertino, Calif.
Common complaints of respondents include an increase in the numbers of servers and applications (85 percent), an increased number of management tools (80 percent), and an increased number of operating systems (72 percent), he added.
Analysts agree—and point to technology and information glut as a reality in todays data center. "Overall, the problem has been that there have been too many technologies, too much emphasis on point products to really solve particular issues, challenges and threats," said Khalid Kark, senior analyst at Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass.
"That has led to a lot of products and technologies out there that are providing, collecting and reporting information. It is very difficult for a data center manager to get a handle on all that information and get a good sense of where they are and what they need to focus on. They are having difficulty making sense of it and looking at it broadly and holistically."
According to the survey, the average number of application and server management tools in the environment of those surveyed was nine.
"They [IT professionals] need to be experts in too many things and cant deliver the value that they want. Now they are trying to simplify that complexity and the management of it," Kark said.
According to the survey, half of IT professionals have plans to consolidate these tools, using the yardsticks of best functionality/performance, cost and an integrated platform.
On top of all this, headcounts in the IT department are down. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed reported that fewer workers create one of the biggest challenges of managing complex environments, while 50 percent cite human error as contributing to unplanned downtime in the data center.
Unfortunately, these activities take IT away from strategic work. "Well over 50 percent of time in most IT organizations is spent in break fix and repair activities, while only a small part of their energy is spent creating new solutions to business problems. Now they are working to flip that ratio," Richard Ptak, founder and partner at Ptak, Noel and Associates in Amherst, N.H.
In an effort to reduce complexity through standardizing processes, virtually all of those surveyed are implementing ITIL/ITSM frameworks to manage IT services. Although it sports a 20-year history, the standard has only gained momentum recently.
"ITIL was originally an attempt to define the practices and services that IT should offer," said Ptak. "The next release ITIL will talk about the processes themselves and that should be a very practical and useful set of definitions which reflects maturation of technology and IT industry."
In fact, ITIL remains early in the adoption curve with only 18 percent reporting that ITIL is a reality in their organization. More than half (52 percent) say that ITIL is an ongoing process, while 22 percent will implement ITIL over the next year, the study found.
Another 9 percent will hop on the bandwagon within three years. "We were surprised to find that 99 percent of people are looking to ITIL or ISM over the next three years," said Barrington. "A large percentage [of respondents] have already implemented it or are in process."
These findings mirror a wider trend. Kark said that he is seeing importance and awareness around standards such as ITIL over the past few months specifically and over the past year generally.
"One thing that a lot of users realize is that no one standard will give you everything you need. They need to use one standard as a basis and pick other things from their frameworks and make it individual to their company, environment and data center," Kark said.
ITIL isnt the only simplifying solution though. Those polled have implemented or are planning a variety of initiatives simultaneously, the study found.
Popular initiatives include: storage allocation and resource management (80 percent), virtual server management (71 percent), storage capacity management (68 percent), business continuity and disaster recovery (60 percent) and application availability (57 percent).