Companies moving slowly toward greater operational efficiency

* Survey results on operational efficiency

Four major themes emerged in Nemertes’ latest data center research, drawn from interviews with 82 data center managers, CIOs, IT directors and other IT executives from 65 companies. Regardless of size or industry, companies were dealing with major changes centered on issues of consolidation, growth, availability and operational efficiency. This week, we examine how companies are trying to cut operational costs while dealing with extreme growth and demands for high availability.

Companies are focusing on data center management and operations, attempting to cut costs, improve efficiency, automate repetitive tasks and better align IT spending with business needs and demand for services.

More than three-quarters of respondents take a holistic view of the data center as part of a broader shift in IT culture to “IT as a service.” This translates to data centers as business-service delivery centers. The emphasis on business services extends to broad adoption (more than 50%) of governance and service delivery standards such as the IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, and Control Objectives for Information and related Technology, or COBIT. Only a few companies are implementing these standards formally and in their totality, but even partial implementations can bring benefits in change-management practices and, as a result, in higher availability and lower operational costs.

But while automation is the goal, in many companies the reality is pretty far from the fully automatic data center. Rather, many companies use a smattering of tools and plenty of hard work to keep the systems running. Telnet, Terminal Services and Ping are the foundation of “management” for many data center operations. “We use a hodge-podge of tools,” says the CIO of a higher-education institution.

Nemertes heard plenty of opinions about the large management platforms, too: “We've looked at outsourcing and different tools. The cost of the tools was too high. We have outsourced high-skill things and what's left can be managed manually,” says the CIO of a manufacturing company. Even those who can afford the tools don’t have a unified, fully integrated management platform. “It's the Tivoli, Unicenter, OpenView nirvana that nobody ever achieves,” commented the CIO of a financial services company.

“Complete” automation of data center operations is a bit of a utopia. You can never replace intelligence, experience and judgment with a script. But, to manage the data centers while responding to business unit demands will require better tools, more integration, more interoperability and more elbow grease. Stay tuned for more information on data center operations and management.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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