Data growth remains IT's biggest challenge, Gartner says

As the economy revives, 62 percent of admins plan to expand data center capacity by the end of 2011

Data growth is the biggest data center hardware infrastructure challenge for large enterprises, according to a new survey by research firm Gartner.

According to Gartner, 47 percent of the respondents to a survey conducted over the summer ranked data growth in their top three challenges. With spending returning to more normal levels after a couple of down years because of the economy, 62 percent said they plan to expand hardware capacity at existing data centers by the end of 2011; 30 percent plan to build entirely new data centers.

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"As the global economy begins to revive in 2010 and organizations start to shift focus to a return to growth, IT organizations will be challenged to support the various growth initiatives," said Naveen Mishra, principal research analyst at Gartner.

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Last year, Mishra said, many data center managers were forced to defer infrastructure upgrades and extend technology refresh cycles. As a result, those same managers are now hampered with an aging infrastructure or, in some cases, product obsolescence.

"Vendors wishing to tap into this reopening market should propose infrastructure solutions that are high in efficiency and offer scalability as the demand grows, thus helping the companies to prepare for a return to growth," he said.

The survey took place between June and August and involved IT staffers from 1,004 large enterprises in eight countries. The data from it is available online.

In addition to concerns about data growth, 37 percent of those surveyed named system performance and scalability as the second biggest challenge for them in the coming year, with 36 percent citing network congestion and connectivity issues.

"While all the top data center hardware infrastructure challenges impact cost to some degree, data growth is particularly associated with increased costs relative to hardware, software, associated maintenance, administration and services," April Adams, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

Survey respondents also chose archiving and data "retirement projects" as their most popular approach to dealing with their data explosion. Sixty-two percent indicated they will invest in data retirement efforts or continue to push ongoing efforts through the end of 2011.

Adams said that while survey respondents pointed to data growth as their top challenge, they did not blame a lack of data center capacity as driving their strategic plans. Instead, they indicated business continuity and data availability as their chief reasons.

The second and third most commonly mentioned drivers for strategic change were data containment initiatives, named by 37 percent of respondents, and maintaining or improving user service levels and satisfaction, which was named by 36 percent of those surveyed.

Other projects at the top of IT staffers' lists for 2011 include: data security from internal or external hackers; storage consolidation; storage management tools rollouts; and data reduction techniques.

When it comes to technology investments, server virtualization topped the list with 67 percent of respondents saying they plan to spend money on that in 2011. About 56 percent of respondents said they also plan to invest in application consolidation. And 51 percent plan to spend money on blade servers.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His email address is

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This story, "Data growth remains IT's biggest challenge, Gartner says" was originally published by Computerworld.