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U.S. versus global data center trends: IT priorities vary

U.S. IT shops have been harder hit by the economic crisis than those in other countries. While the U.S. leads slightly on server virtualization adoption, it lags on energy efficiency. recently published the results of its "Data Center Decisions: 2009 Purchasing Intentions Survey" of 920 IT managers. About 43% of survey respondents were U.S.-based, so we compared the data of U.S. versus non-U.S. respondents to see how U.S.-based data centers stack up against those around the globe. While many of the trends stayed the same, some surprising differences emerged.

For more on the Data Center Decisions 2009 survey:
Survey overview

Virtualization drives server purchasing

Hot-aisle/cold-aisle containment takes hold

VM deployments on the rise

U.S. IT budgets were hit much harder than those in non-U.S. data centers. In the U.S., 20% of IT shops face a decrease of greater than 10%, compared with only 11% of non-U.S. IT shops.

In the U.S., about 32% of data centers have xperienced an increase in IT budget, versus 44% globally.

Ahead of the curve on server virtualization 
U.S. IT managers are ahead of the curve on server virtualization adoption. More U.S. IT shops have already purchased virtualization-ready servers. U.S. shops are also willing to put a greater number virtual machines on a physical box than are non-U.S. respondents. Consequently, U.S. shops now provision more RAM than the rest of the globe.

On the operating system side, U.S. and non-U.S. installations were very similar. Windows Server 2003 was far and away the most popular OS, with more than 80% of respondents supporting that OS in their data centers. This was followed by Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows Server 2008, coming in neck and neck with more than 40% adoption in the U.S. and worldwide. The three Unix variants -- Solaris, AIX and HP-UX -- came next, each garnering between 25% and 35%.. The only major difference in the U.S. versus non-U.S. operating system landscape came among mainframes, with nearly 20% mainframe adoption in the U.S. versus 7% worldwide.

U.S. lags on IT energy issues 
Reducing data center energy consumption appears to matter more abroad than in the U.S. Only 49% of U.S. shops say energy efficiency is very important, versus 59% internationally. And only 10% of global respondents say it's not important, versus 14% in the U.S.

Far more non-U.S. data centers pay their own power bill -- 59% non-U.S. versus only 45% in the U.S. And non-U.S. IT managers are much more likely to track their power bills.

Hot-aisle and cold-aisle containment is more popular in the U.S.-- nearly half U.S. respondents have already done or plan to do containment next year, compared with 40% globally.

Chuck Goolsbee, an executive at Seattle-based hosting company, Digital Forest said he was surprised that only half the respondents used containment. "By next year, it will be more than 90%," he said.

Cold-aisle containment is far more popular in the non-U.S. respondents, versus U.S. shops that prefer hot-aisle containment. Listen to this podcast for more on the debate on hot-aisle versus cold-aisle containment.

While non-U.S. IT shops lagged on containment, they are far more likely to try alternative methods to reduce energy consumption, including liquid cooling, DC power, and air- and water-side economizers.

Tepid U.S. interest in systems management 
Non-U.S. IT managers are vastly more likely to spend on third-party systems management tools than their U.S. counterparts. A whopping 38% of non-U.S. IT shops plan to increase spending on third party systems management tools, versus only 9% of U.S. data centers.

"Why buy [third-party management tools] when there are such better alternatives anyway?" Goolsbee asked. "Most of the smart IT guys I know choose to build their own by aggregating existing open source monitoring and management tools with their own code. It does the same job for a tiny fraction of the cost of buying a package." The budget and economy were the main responses from U.S. teams on why they are decreasing spending on IT management tools. When it comes to selecting an IT management software vendor U.S. shops are far more price-sensitive.

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is more popular among data centers outside the U.S. and ITIL support is a much more important criterion for IT management software buyers abroad.

Last, the demographics are different. U.S. respondents work for larger companies than do non-U.S. participants. The majority of U.S. respondents work for organizations with more than 1,000 employees, and 32% of respondents work for organizations larger than 10,000 employees. Non-U.S. respondents worked for smaller organizations, with a higher percentage of shops supporting 100 to 1,000 people.

Click here for the full Data Center Decisions report . And follow these links for all of the data: U.S. respondents only , Non-U.S. respondents.

What did you think of this feature? Write to's Matt Stansberry about your data center concerns at

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