How to Manage Data Center Complexity

Complexity in the data center drives increased costs, reduced agility and even downtime. For the past five years, virtualization has been the accepted cure, but it may simply be shifting complexity into other areas of the data center. To get the most out of data center virtualization, follow these best practices.

Mon, September 17, 2012

CIO — Complexity in the data center has a number of unwelcome effects on the enterprise, from increased costs to reduced agility and even downtime. For the past five years, organizations have been virtualizing their data centers in an effort to reduce complexity and increase efficiency. But while virtualization offers significant benefits, many such projects have shifted rather than eliminated complexity in the data center. To truly mitigate data center complexity, organizations need training, standardization and information governance.

"So many people think that virtualization is the penicillin of the data center, but in reality, what we've seen is that while people are investing heavily in virtualization, they didn't necessarily have the foresight to see the ramifications of virtualizing so quickly," says Danny Milrad, director of product marketing at Symantec, which just released the results of its 2012 State of the Data Center Survey. "One of the benefits of virtualization is spinning up an application so quickly, but they don't think about how big the footprint of that application can become."

Business-Critical Apps Drive Data Center Complexity

The increasing number of business-critical apps is the primary driver of complexity in the data center: 65 percent of respondents in Symantec's study listed it as a driver of the complexity of their data centers. Symantec contacted 2,453 IT professionals from 32 countries. They included senior IT staff focused on operations and tactical functions, as well as staff members focused on planning and IT management.

"Show me an app that isn't a business critical application outside of file and print these days," Milrad says. "Now you've got to replicate it, and your storage footprint goes up. With all these new applications coming online, they're being virtualized, and you've got a ton more data than you ever expected."

When that happens, organizations hit a wall. "As they virtualize more and more, the cost of storage and the cost of virtualization licenses and everything that falls out of that grows faster than expected," he says. "Storage is cheap, but it's still very expensive when you have to buy 10 times more than you expected."

Other key drivers of data center complexity include the growth of strategic IT trends such as mobile computing (cited by 44 percent of respondents), server virtualization (43 percent) and public cloud (41 percent). The most commonly cited result of data center complexity is increased costs (47 percent). But other effects include reduced agility (39 percent), longer lead times for storage migration (39 percent) and provisioning storage (38 percent), security breaches (35 percent) and downtime (35 percent).

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