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IT Priorities 2016: Server virtualisation is top datacentre infrastructure investment area for CIOs

The 2016 Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities poll suggests server virtualisation remains the key datacentre investment area for CIOs

The enduring popularity of server virtualisation as a top area of datacentre infrastructure investment has been reinforced by the findings of the 2016 Computer Weekly/TechTarget  IT Priorities survey.

The annual poll shines a light on the investment plans of IT managers over the coming year, and server virtualisation leads both the UK and Europe-wide versions of the survey as respondents’ top datacentre infrastructure investment priority.

More than 1,000 IT European decision-makers took part in this year’s survey, and 34.7% of those quizzed named server virtualisation as their number one investment priority in 2016.

The result was broadly similar in the UK and Ireland, where 38.4% of the 194 respondents named server virtualisation as their top investment area.

The outcome of the survey may be a surprise to some, because industry estimates regularly suggest that the average enterprise has 80-90% of its servers virtualised these days.

Interestingly, figures released by IT market watcher Gartner concerning server virtualisation trends in May 2016 suggests that much of the IT spend allocated to this area is now being used to maintain existing virtual server farms, rather than create new ones.

The analyst firm’s worldwide tracker of the x86 server virtualisation market suggests that $5.6bn will be spent in this area during 2016, which is a rise of 5.7% from last year.

Maintain and update

Sales of new server virtualisation software licences have fallen for the first time recently, says Gartner, and much of this 5.7% growth will be driven by the maintenance of existing deployments, it adds.

“Usage of server virtualisation among organisations with larger IT budgets remained stabled during 2014 and 2015,” said Gartner.

“It continues to be an important and heavily-used technology for these businesses, but this market segment is approaching saturation.”

A deeper dig into the TechTarget IT Priorities data reveals a little more about why server virtualisation remains a keen focus for UK and European IT decision-makers, as the push to downsize their physical datacentre footprint continues apace.

Andrew Roughan, business development director at modular datacentre provider IO, told Computer Weekly that server virtualisation and datacentre consolidation go hand-in-hand.

“If we go back 10 years, when clients had broadly physical estates that were low on virtualisation, with a one-on-one relationship with the app and server, datacentre footprints were a lot larger,” he said.

“The paradigm shift occurred when virtualisation started to be adopted, but it wasn’t an overnight step-change where all of a sudden people went from having N number of servers to N minus 50%. That shift has taken place over time. Now you get a hell of a lot more IT out of a hell of a lot less datacentre space.”

End-user endeavours

In the European version of the IT priorities report, datacentre consolidation emerged as the leading “broad IT initiative” on which enterprises intend to embark in 2016, with 34.8% of respondents voting for it. In second place was big data and business analytics (33.4%), followed by mobility (31.2%).

However, the UK version saw datacentre consolidation relegated to second place (32.8%), while compliance activities won slightly more votes (36.8%). Big data and business analytics came third with 31.6%.

With about one in four European respondents expecting their IT budgets to remain the same this year, embarking on a datacentre consolidation project may pave the way for savings in energy costs, hardware procurement and real estate, for example, which could be put to use elsewhere.

Over the previous 12 months, Computer Weekly has featured numerous accounts from end-user organisations that have embarked on similar consolidation initiatives with the help of the datacentre consultancy, colocation and cloud provider communities.

East Sussex Healthcare Trust claimed that a revamp of its 30-year-old datacentre set-up would save it about £113,000 by enabling it to consolidate the operations of two sites into one, while taking advantage of relatively new datacentre design features, such as hot and cold aisle containment.

Irish Telco Eir shared details of its €6.7m datacentre consolidation project in November 2015, which has seen it cut the number of datacentres it operates from five to two. This process, the company said, had been made possible through the use of server virtualisation and investments in better-performing hardware, which takes up less space than the old kit.

For others, such as wildlife conservation charity Wildscreen, embarking on a datacentre consolidation arises from the need to simplify their IT estate by bringing disparate pools of servers in several locations together on a single colocation site.

Downsize to upgrade

While datacentre downsizing remains the order of the day, it appears some IT decision-makers may be opting to save space by upgrading their infrastructure and rolling out better-performing kit that takes up less floor space.

Indeed, updating their datacentre facilities was cited as a priority by 28.8% of respondents in the European poll, who flagged it as their second-highest infrastructure investment priority, after server virtualisation.

Isle of Man-based telecommunications provider Manx Telecom hosts services for the fintech and e-gaming sector from its facilities on the island, and any downtime or loss of service can cost its customers huge sums of money.

For Stephan Kane, head of datacentre and managed services at Manx Telecom, investing in the latest and greatest technology is a top concern for all datacentre providers.

Read more about the 2016 IT Priorities report

“We have to keep our sites available 100% of the time, so we can’t afford to let plant age and not be upgraded and recycled,” he told Computer Weekly.

“As a sector, we are very predictable in that way, and the reason for that is the predictability and our continued push towards refreshing our infrastructure. This is what gives us the guaranteed availability we need.”

Just under half (48.6%) of European respondents expected their IT budget to increase in 2016, the IT Priorities data shows, with 43.8% of IT decision-makers describing cloud services as an area where they expected to spend more in the next 12 months.

While that, and the continued growth of the colocation market, might contribute to some enterprises’ datacentre downsizing activities, regulatory and operational pressures will stop many from going all-in on the cloud just yet.

“Most customers and corporates – banking, finance and legal – can’t put all their company assets into the cloud for a couple of reasons,” said Kane. “Some of them are technical, whereas others are security as well. We find customers have a need for a hybrid set of IT services and functions.

“There is stuff that will have to be on airgap-separated equipment, for example, that sits away from the cloud. They run and operate equipment that only they can touch and see in their caged environment.

“They may build out their own private cloud for their business in that environment and link into a shared cloud, where they might spin up additional services and machines to add capacity for that resource, but the priority is to use private, hybrid, on-premise or dedicated technologies to meet whatever their business need might be.”

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