News Stay informed about the latest enterprise technology news and product updates.

Data center purchasing survey 2009: Budgets flatten, clampdown on costs

As IT shops wrestle with the economic downturn, some have bought new servers to enhance virtualization deployments but have clamped down on other IT costs.

Compared with last summer, data center budget growth screeched to a halt this year. In 2008, 30% of IT shops said they were increasing budget 5% to 10%, and 26% said they planned to increase budget more than 10%. Less than 15% of respondents were decreasing budget at all.

For more on the Data Center Decisions survey:
Blade server popularity cools

Hot-aisle/cold-aisle containment takes hold

Linux fans see opportunity in Windows 7 changeover

VM deployments on the rise

Linux enthusiasm wanes

 This year, most respondents said their budgets were flat, and 31% are decreasing spending. In fact, 14% are cutting budgets by more than 10%. advisory board member Robert Rosen, the CIO of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, wasn't surprised by the results.

"IT budgets lag [behind the overall economy] a little bit since they tend to commit to things that have to finish," Rosen said. "It's the new project starts that get canceled; hence the budget decrease now."

IT shops buying server hardware to enhance virtualization deployments
For IT shops that are actually spending on new servers, they're doing so as part of server virtualization deployments. For the past few years, the top three responses to the question "What are the top three drivers for purchasing new servers?" has been: Normal demand for increased capacity, end of lease/life of the servers, and new applications.

Many computer rooms just don't have enough cooling for a rack of blades.
Robert Rosen,
CIONational Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health

 Last year a few respondents wrote in "Virtualization" as a driver. This year it has become the No. 1 factor for those buying servers. Nearly half the respondents said they planned to purchase hardware to enhance virtualization deployments.

In a related statistic, the amount of RAM respondents are provisioning for commodity servers has increased incrementally. Most folks said they were provisioning 8 GB to 16 GB in 2008. This year the majority of respondents are provisioning 17 GB to 32 GB, increasing server memory to help commodity servers deal with server virtualization workloads.

Is the bloom off the rose for blades?
Only 7% of respondents in 2008 said they planned to spend less on blades, whereas in 2009, 13% plan to reduce blade spending. In both 2008 and this year's survey, the same percentage of respondents don't use blades (40%). So the reduction in blade server spending comes from respondents who spent on these servers last year.

According to Rosen, more IT managers have discovered the hidden cost of blades. "Many computer rooms just don't have enough cooling for a rack of blades," he said. "In scale-out versus scale-up [with virtualization], I think scaling up [to a larger server] is just a better solution at this time."

See the full article for more info on this tepid blade server spending.

OS landscape shifts; enter Windows Server 2008
Windows Server 2008 saw a significant increase in general installations – from 23% to 45% -- to the No. 2 spot behind Windows Server 2003. The rest of the lineup stayed the same: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, followed by the Unixes: Solaris, HP-UX and AIX, respectively. Not surprisingly, data center installs of Ubuntu Linux increased somewhat substantially, from 9% to 14%.

The real cost of software is in the support, not the purchase price.
Robert Rosen,

But when we asked about mission-critical workloads, Windows 2003 stayed in the No. 1 position, Windows 2008 dropped back in the pack, and Red Hat Linux jumped to No. 2. The three Unix variants stayed in the middle, but the combined Unix footprint is double the Linux market share on mission-critical applications, and it's nearly as large as Windows Server 2003.

The survey showed a decline in the number of shops considering or using Linux. In response to the question, "Does your company use or plan to evaluate Linux on servers this year?," fifty-four percent said no last year; 60% said no this year. Despite tight budgets and a down economy, Linux adoption declined rather than grew. And, in fact, respondents may view Linux adoption as risky in tough times

"The real cost of software is in the support, not the purchase price," Rosen said. "No one is going to jump into the unknown cost of support pool when they're just trying to survive."

More than a quarter (27%) of respondents said they would not dump Windows for Linux, versus 34% this year. The results seem to indicate that the Linux-to-Windows migration is over. The percentage of shops considering migrating from Unix to Linux is the same as last year.

Speaking of Unix-to-Linux migration, Sun Microsystems customers are sticking with it out for now. Asked whether the impending Oracle acquisition would change their plans, Sun customers 85% or respondents said they would not dump Sun hardware; 81% say they won't discard Solaris.

Data center facilities reducing data center power
According to the survey, data center power consumption is getting more important. The percentage of folks who said this was a major concern increased from 48% to 55% this year. While these numbers are unsurprising given the downturn in the economy and high energy costs, what is surprising is that the behavior concerning power consumption has begun to change: There was a major increase in the number of respondents whose business unit actually pays the power bill, from 37% to 53%. This is important – it's one of the energy-conscious approaches has encouraged its readers to adopt for quite some time.

The behavior concerning power consumption has begun to change.

"When the power bill gets really significant, it ends up on the CEO's desk," Rosen said "When he sees that the biggest user is IT, IT has to deal with it." Still 28% of survey respondents don't know whether their power bill has increased or decreased – though this is an improvement over the 36% who didn't know last year. For the respondents who are paying attention, a majority see major increases in the power bill for their data centers. 44% have seen an increase, and 19% say the increase is greater than 10%.

Hot-aisle/cold aisle containment -- the practice of sealing hot aisles and cold aisles in a data center –gained traction in 2009. Some data centers do hot-aisle and cold-aisle containment themselves, and some buy a system from a provider, such as Wrightline, APC and Liebert. This really wasn't on the radar until late last year, but already 30% of respondents have implemented it, and an additional 15% plan to next year. Data center infrastructure vendors such as APC and Liebert have differing strategies on how this should be done. The cold-aisle containment strategy (encouraged by Liebert) is slightly more popular with respondents than is hot-aisle or plenum containment.

Server virtualization spending continues, but at a sober rate
Virtualization budgets shrank only slightly. Last year 56% of respondents planned to increase spending on virtualization, and only 2% planned a decrease. This year 54% still plan to increase spending, but 5% plan to cut server virtualization budgets.

The focus on justifying spending has shifted from the nice-to-have ("Modernizing infrastructure" was the No. 1 reason for increasing virtualization budget last year) to the need-to-have: saving on hardware and power and cooling costs. VMware ESX 3.5 and VMware Server remain the dominant server virtualization platforms. Microsoft Hyper-V and Virtual Server have at least edged out prior versions of VMware, taking the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, with about 5% adoption each. Respondents were asked which hypervisors they planned to implement over the next 12 months, and Microsoft Hyper-V jumped from 13% last year to 22% this year; Citrix Systems' Xen jumped from 7% to 13%.

The number of virtual machines provisioned per physical server stayed the same. Most people say less than 10. And most respondents will not standardize the hardware platforms on which they deploy VMs. But for those that do, blade servers are the preferred form factor.

Systems management spending slumps
Systems management spending continues to decline .Thirty-five percent of respondents said they planned to increase spending on systems management software last year – that declined to 27% this year. And respondents planning to decrease systems management spending jumped from 3% to 8%.

Mainframe systems programmer Robert Crawford is not surprised that enterprises are spending less on systems management now. "There are a lot of nifty tools out there, but they tend to be expensive," he said. "Sure, this software can ease pain and boost productivity, but with a bad economy an organization may decide it can live with the difficulties just a little bit longer until things start looking up."

There are a lot of nifty [systems management] tools out there, but they tend to be expensive.
Robert Crawford,
mainframe systems programmer

On the other hand, if administrators have the time, an organization can build its own systems management tools. "The homegrown stuff may not be as snazzy or comprehensive as a store-bought tool, but it would do for now," Crawford said. The main reasons respondents have turned to systems management is to improve employee productivity, introduce automation, contain costs and fill staffing gaps. People are far more price-sensitive about systems management software. Nearly half (47%) said it was a major purchasing criteria last year, compared with 57% this year.

Interest in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) seems to have waned : The number of shops saying they've implemented ITIL shrunk year over year since 2007. Only 21% of the audience has implemented ITIL (a decline from 30% last year).Of those that have deployed it, half have implemented the latest version: ITIL v3. And far fewer respondents use ITIL as a purchasing criterion for software: 70% did last year, compared with only 58% this year. The adoption of configuration management databases (CMDBs) software rose – from 55% to 64% HP, BMC, IBM lead the pack of CMDB vendors. And several respondents named Microsoft as their CMDB vendor, although the company doesn't have a CMDB product.

IT job advancement situation grim
Nearly half of respondents(49%) don't expect a raise or bonus this year, compared with 23% last year.

Technical certifications continue to lose merit with respondents: 55% don't have any certification, versus 46% last year. The number of respondents who say certification doesn't matter in their raise or bonus structure increased from 77% last year to practically 90%.

Between June and September of 2009, conducted the Data Center Decisions 2009 Purchasing Intentions Survey. Subscribers were contacted by email and invited to participate. For this survey, we had a total of 920 respondents. The respondents identify themselves as IT managers, IT administrators, data center facility managers and IT executives. Respondents were primarily U.S.-based (43%), but the survey also included participants from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. More than half of respondents' organizations employ more than 1,000 workers, and more than 25% of the companies have more than 10,000 employees. Thank you to everyone who participated in this survey. Follow this link to the 2008 data center purchasing intentions survey.

Matt Stansberry is Executive Editor of Let us know what you think about the data center purchasing survey; email Matt Stansberry.


Dig Deeper on Data center budget and culture

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.