Virtual server backup and disaster recovery top IT priorities


The top storage-related IT priorities for European IT departments this year are Virtual server backup and storage plus disaster recovery. Those are the findings of an IT priorities survey conducted by TechTarget -- parent company to -- late last year to which 225 European IT professionals and managers responded.

Among many other things, survey respondents told us of their storage and backup project priorities for the coming year. In this webcast, Assistant Site Editor Fran Sales interviews Bureau Chief Antony Adshead about the IT priorities survey results.

In the webcast, Antony provides analysis of the findings and shows that most IT department storage priorities -- including virtual server backup and storage -- are dictated by a combination of difficult economic circumstances and new technology enablers such as server virtualisation.

Sales: What does the survey tell us about IT department spending and storage in particular?

Adshead: The big picture here is the context in whichstorage and backup operate. And what we have is a fairly depressed economic backdrop. We can see that from Slide 3, which shows whether [the IT priorities] survey respondents feel their organisations are suffering from the effects of recession.

[It] shows … that more than two-thirds are either in recession or have been and are recovering slowly.

The effects of this big-picture economic context are evident when we look at the next slide [Slide 4]. What we see is that for about half of respondents, their budgets are either the same as the year before or are decreasing, in some cases significantly. It’s not all doom and gloom of course, as the other half of those questioned reported budgets increasing. Maybe there’s a private/public sector divide here, but we didn’t ask that question.

We can see how this is translating into IT department spending plans in Slide 5. And despite the unfavourable situation, it’s clear most IT departments are facing things with a can-do attitude. Nearly a third talk about expanding IT to help the business grow, while nearly a fifth talk of helping the business become more automated. Presumably, many of those respondents are the same ones that have budget increases to help them. But even where spending is presumably tighter, we see, for example, about a quarter saying they will spend selectively in key areas.

What I think all this translates into in terms of actual IT department projects is getting the most bang for your budget buck, doing more with less, etc. And the big current project/technology focus that affords this that many people are in the throes of is server virtualisation. As we can see from Slide 6, nearly 60% of those questioned put it as a project they would be engaged in in 2012.

Right now server virtualisation is the way of doing more with less in business IT. And of course it has a knock on effect in the areas we focus on. Namely, when you virtualise servers, you probably have to entirely revamp your storage to support the new setup, and likewise with backup. You just can’t do these things in the old ways, i.e., with direct-attached storage and one-agent-per-server backup configurations.

Sales: So, what are the growth areas in storage and backup?

Adshead: Well, first of all I’ll take up where I left off at the end of the last point, namely to talk about the effects of server virtualisation on storage and backup. If we look at Slide 7 [“Which of these storage initiatives will your company deploy in 2012?”], the first things to notice are the second and third bars on the graph. Here we have [virtual server backup] and storage virtualisation.

As I mentioned earlier, server virtualisation is a big thing right now, and a lot of people are going through it, but it also requires a revamping of backup regimes. Because you’re now putting many virtual servers in one physical box, there’s a massive ramping up in I/O, so you just can’t back up in the old way with an agent for every server. There are now new ways of doing [virtual server backup]. That’s what people are getting to grips with, and that’s why it registers as a high priority here.

The third bar shows “storage virtualisation.” This -- I think -- actually shows people that have ticked the box with the intention of indicating they plan storage for virtualisation.

There is, of course, an actual category of storage virtualisation products that knit together disparate vendors’ storage systems, but we don’t think this is what [survey respondents] mean. Our annual [storage] Purchasing Intentions survey shows this market to be flat [with about 30% of respondents answering consistently positive to the question ”Have you virtualized any of your installed storage?” for the past three years]. And speaking to people out in the field, it’s apparent there’s a lot of confusion about “storage virtualisation”; if you mention it, people usually take it to mean storage for virtualisation. So, here again we have more evidence that the spin-off projects from server virtualisation are a high priority.

Another notable bang-for-your-buck set of projects is data deduplication and data reduction, for backup and primary storage, both of which are indicated as projects survey respondents will undertake in 2012. As we saw in our [storage] Purchasing Intentions survey, the biggest single storage spend in IT departments is on disk capacity. So, what this survey’s findings seem to show is that people are looking at ways of reducing that, and data deduplication is a very good way of doing it. Backup dedupe is the more mature of the two, with dedupe/reduction for primary data something we’re starting to see more of recently.

Cloud storage and cloud backup are another area where people can gain potential cost savings. Not having to maintain your own infrastructure and having the flexibility to increase or decrease storage capacity as the need dictates is a very attractive proposition. That said, it’s only about a fifth of those questioned who will embark on cloud storage and backup in 2012. And that’s probably down to concerns over security and reliability, as we can see in Slide 8. I do think, though, that when those concerns are no longer felt, as the cloud space matures, that we’ll see it create a step change in the way computing and storage are provided, but that’s one for the future.

Finally -- and going back to Slide 7 -- there’s one big project that I think is not dictated by the economic environment, doing more with less, etc., and that’s disaster recovery. This is a must-have, recession or no recession. What we’re seeing is more and more organisations either realising that they need effective disaster recovery provision in place for good business reasons -- i.e., if you suffer a disaster, that’s probably the end of your operations for good -- or they are compelled to set up good DR provision by industry regulations, such as in the financial services sector. If we look at the final slide [Slide 9] we’ll see a quarter of those questioned indicate that compliance is a key driver for them.

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