Yielding short-term ROI, CMDBs gain favor in 2008 data center budgets
For some time, systems management vendors have touted their tools' promise in managing
complexity and bringing automation to data centers. But respondents to the Data Center Decisions
2008 Purchasing Intentions Survey remain skeptical about the potential of these tools.
While nearly 65% of respondents' data center budgets have increased over budgets in 2007, data
centers have not made significant increases in systems management spending for activities like
monitoring performance, increasing data center automation and conducting capacity planning.
According to our 2008 Purchasing Intentions Survey of more than 600 respondents, only 35% of
respondents plan to increase spending on these tools, and 42% plan to spend the same amount as they
did in 2007. Interest in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) also remains lukewarm. About 70% of
respondents have not implemented ITIL. Those that have implemented ITIL have taken a piecemeal
approach, focusing largely on its more basic service support and delivery components.
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Tackling data center complexity
But data centers have extended use of some management tools -- particularly configuration
management databases (CMDBs) -- to track and manage the complexity associated with a growing number
of servers, configurations and interdependencies. Nearly 80% of respondents either have or are
evaluating a CMDB. "If you're in a small data center environment, you can do things without tools
[like CMDBs]," said Jasmine Noel, a partner at New York-based Ptak, Noel & Associates. "But as soon as you get into tens or hundreds of
servers, with people from different [parts of IT] doing different things, you need help; you can no
longer just remember what you did to the system a week ago. That explains why people are putting
some dollars into configuration management databases."
Still, spending on and implementation of systems management tools overall remains incremental,
similar to findings from last year's Data Center Purchasing Intentions Survey . "Our
research shows an ongoing lack of trust in systems management tools," said Andi Mann, a research
director at the Boulder, Colo.-based research firm Enterprise Management Associates. With increasing data center
interdependencies, respondents' environments "are extremely complex, and they don't believe tools
can deal with that complexity," he said.
Figure 1: Spending on systems management tools in 2008
Building trust in systems management tools
Whither data centers' resistance to implementing these tools? No doubt, cost and lack of staff to
manage these tools figure significantly into the spending picture. Nearly 37% of respondents say
they don't have management tools because of budgetary constraints, and lack of staff is a barrier
for another 24%. But skepticism about return on investment is also a factor. For 10% of
respondents, there is also question about whether these tools offer sufficient value.
Figure 2: Reasons for not investing in systems management software
According to Mann, however, respondents' reasons for not investing in systems management tools
reflect concern not only about cost and staff to handle these systems but also a continued lack of
sophistication in data center management. "A lot of enterprises are not using sophisticated tools,
and it has to do with a level of maturity," he said.
|Data centers start where they experience the most pain. When
people use a CMDB, they use it to solve a particular problem.
Ptak, Noel & Associates
But respondents' increasing adoption of CMDBs indicates efforts to take on a more sophisticated
management approach. In the 2007 Purchasing Intentions survey of 374 respondents, 24% of respondents had
invested in configuration management databases, and another 24% were evaluating them.
In contrast, this year, 55% have invested in a CMDB, 5% will purchase one, and another 19% plan
to evaluate one this year. This growing investment indicates that data centers have begun to lay
the groundwork for future automation and more well-defined processes. "A good CMDB implementation
provides the linchpin for future automation," said Mann. "You need to know what servers exist, what
their configurations are before you can automate [activities like] bringing them up or shutting
them down." And with server virtualization pervading data centers -- some 72% of respondents will
have deployed server virtualization by the end of 2008 -- managing data center interdependencies
and complexity has become paramount.
Figure 3: Configuration management database adoption
CMDBs address pain points, show immediate ROI
Thus, increasing interest in CMDBs indicates that IT shops now use these tools to lay the
foundation to achieve greater data center maturity, more well-defined process and less manual
management. "Among our own respondents in a recent survey, the strongest reason to employ a CMDB
was to enable process," said Mann. "They need CMDBs to help them achieve that maturity. And the
next step is more management tools, specifically around process automation." Still, while data
centers have begun to lay the groundwork for greater maturity, investment in a variety of tools --
for say, capacity planning, performance monitoring and other systems management activities -- to
aid these efforts remains slow.
Noel believes that the increase in respondents' CMDB adoption reflects the increasing pragmatism
of data center spending. "Data centers start where they experience the most pain," she said. "When
people use a CMDB, they use it to solve a particular problem like application troubleshooting, for
example. They're spending a slowly increasing budget by tackling a specific IT management problem
with tools that they can leverage for [other management uses] later on but that can give them some
According to Mann, it makes sense for data centers with competing priorities to focus on
initiatives that show clear return on investment. "For these shops, they have other day-to-day
must-haves," Mann asserted. "They're looking at the application side, sales force applications, CRM
[customer relationship management] systems, order entry. This is what drives business and adds to
revenue. It's hard to point to added revenue from system management, and that's the vendor
challenge: to prove the value of these tools," he said.
Still, according to Noel, trust builds on itself. As data centers deploy tools like CMDBs and
gain short-term payback in tackling specific problems, these tools can then prove their value in
new activities. "After implementing a CMDB and seeing how it works, a data center admin says, 'Now
I can use it for something else to get answers there as well,'" she said. "Organizations are
learning and figuring out, 'OK, this really does supply me the answers.'"
For SearchDataCenter.com's entire survey report, click here. Lauren Horwitz is the managing editor of SearchDataCenter.com. Write
to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You
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