Asian data centers turn to virtualization, automation

Region's data centers focus on initiatives that drive immediate cost reduction, rather than projects that drive longer-term returns on investment, finds new survey.
Written by Lee Min Keong, Contributor

KUALA LUMPUR--IT departments in the region are taking action to lower costs in their data centers, as cost cutting becomes the primary objective for companies in the current downturn, a new survey finds.

Released Thursday by Symantec, the 2008 Asia Pacific State of the Data Center report revealed that organizations were reducing costs in their data centers through automation, server consolidation, and server and storage virtualization initiatives.

However, the report also found that data center staffing remained problematic, servers and storage were still underutilized, and disaster recovery plans were out of date.

Suzie Tan, Symantec's managing director for Malaysia, said during the launch of the report here: "This research confirms what we are seeing in the field. Attention has turned to initiatives that will drive immediate cost reduction, rather than longer-term returns on investment-driven programs.

"Storage has been a primary focus of these initiatives as the demand for capacity continues to rise, despite economic challenges," Tan said.

She added that key initiatives data centers were pursuing to "do more with less" included automation of routine tasks, as indicated by 47 percent of respondents, server virtualization/consolidation (43 percent) and reducing data center complexity (40 percent).

Companies polled in the Sympoantec study reported that their data center servers were operating at just 65 percent of capacity in 2008, down from 70 percent in 2007, while data center storage utilization was lower at 60 percent.

Raymond Goh, Asia South director of systems engineering at Symantec, said the security vendor found a flurry of activity aimed at increasing utilization in both areas. He noted that efforts to improve utilization of existing servers and storage enable organizations to defer current planned hardware spending.

"This will give you immediate returns in terms of the savings because when you defer the hardware purchase, not only do you defer the acquisition cost, you also defer the potential power and maintenance costs," Goh explained.

"IT managers and executives are in a tough spot," he added. "Cost reduction is a non-negotiable objective this year, while user expectations remain high and demand continues to rise. We are seeing this translate into interest in solutions that provide customers with confidence, and deliver immediate benefits in reducing server and storage spend without disrupting today's environment."

To achieve greater efficiencies and cost savings, Symantec recommended the use of heterogeneous software, which allows data center managers to achieve more with limited resources by utilizing existing server and storage resources, freeing up IT staff and protecting and managing data, servers and applications with a single platform.

    Other recommendations in the Symantec report included:
  • Use of heterogeneous software to allow data center managers to "do more with less" by lowering operational costs;
  • Green IT, or using software to reduce energy consumption and increase space utilization by providing server and storage efficiencies;
  • A comprehensive data protection strategy that supports the broadest set of disk, tape and virtual library vendors;
  • Storage management technologies for better use of storage resources by optimizing storage utilization;
  • Adopting a management framework that provides architectural flexibility and supports multiple virtualization platforms and physical environment; and
  • For disaster recovery--holistic data protection across virtual environments, remote offices, desktops, laptops, servers, applications and databases, that can quickly recover data and systems.

Symantec's report was based on interviews with data center staff in 414 companies in Japan, China, India, South Korea, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, in September and October last year. The companies ranged in size, including those with 5,000 to more than 50,000 employees, where the median company engaged between 10,000 and 19,999 employees.

Lee Min Keong is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.

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