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AFCOM keynote: Will data center budgets survive economic woes?

At Data Center World, keynote panelists discussed the impact of the economic downturn on data centers, the importance of making the business case for IT budget and the possibility of increases in data center green initiatives.

ORLANDO – While the economy faces some cloudy days ahead, data center budgets should weather the storm, although various keynote panelists expressed different levels of optimism at the AFCOM Data Center World conference today.

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In the keynote, four members of the board of the Data Center Institute – the research arm of the AFCOM data center user group – discussed the results of a survey conducted earlier this year of about 300 data center IT and facility professionals. In short, the survey indicated that businesses now think twice before cutting IT budgets, because extensive data center budget cuts could harm companies' overall productivity.

To that end, the survey found that 38% of respondents expect an increase in their data center budgets in 2009, 43% suspect it will stay the same, but only 19% expect a decrease.

"This downturn in the economy could actually spur budget increases," said Tom Roberts, a keynote panelist and the director of data center services at Trinity Information Services. "Companies are beginning to realize that increasing data center effectiveness is critical," he added.

A pessimist pipes up
Roberts said he likes to try to see everything "as a glass half full," but not everyone on the institute's board shared his rosy outlook, including, Richard Sawyer, a principal at EYP Mission Critical Facilities. First, Sawyer noted, the Data Center Institute survey was conducted earlier in 2008 and before the recent troubles in the financial and housing markets emerged in full force. Second, he argued, when you account for inflation, a flat data center budget actually constitutes a cut . So in Sawyer's estimation, well more than 50% of data centers effectively face budget cuts in 2009.

"A lot of data centers will be working with budget cuts of 6% to 10%," he said. "Those that did not project those cuts will probably see them anyway. That has a high impact on how we manage and operate a data center."

Preventing budget cuts
What can data center managers do to protect IT budgets? Make your case for data center spending, the speakers intoned. Sawyer said data center managers should spell out how cuts would have detrimental impacts on customers, a company and operations. Maureen Versen, also a keynote panelist and the head of commercial real estate and data center initiatives at Siemens Building Technologies, discussed how a company's ability to survive the economy is more dependent than ever on data center performance. And Sam Somashekar, a product management director at CA, argued that the economic downturn could prompt an increase among companies in "going green." p>
It shouldn't be painful ... or it will deter you from going green.
Sam Somashekar,
product management directorCA

Whereas 62% of survey respondents said their data centers have been involved in green data center initiatives, 78% of all respondents said that over the coming year, they plan to increase their greening efforts. It's unclear how much of these intentions are related to the economy taking a turn for the worse, but Somashekar said greening certainly shouldn't hurt your bottom line.

But data center managers should have a clear idea of what it means to go green, Somashekar said. "Before jumping into implementation, it's important to understand what you want to accomplish and where you stand in relation to those goals," he said. "It shouldn't be painful … or it will deter you from going green."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Data Center Facilities Pro blog.

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