Study: Outmoded data center infrastructure hampering virtualization, cloud adoption

Almost two-thirds of end users lack confidence in data center networks today, reveals a recent global study commissioned by Brocade.

A global study commissioned by Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD) reveals that many organizations still depend on antiquated data center infrastructure, with significant negative impact on both productivity and end-user experience.

Conducted by third-party research firm Vanson Bourne on behalf of Brocade, the study surveyed 1,750 IT decision-makers (ITDMs) and office workers within enterprise organizations across the UK, France, Germany and North America. The fieldwork was conducted during early summer 2013. According to the study, although three quarters of enterprises have updated their IT environments in the last three years, 91 percent of ITDMs stated that their current IT infrastructures still require substantial upgrades to meet ever-changing and unique networking requirements created by virtualization and cloud computing technologies.

Further, a third of the survey respondents admitted that their organizations experience multiple network failures each week.

The premise of the study was that the data center network has never been placed under greater strain, as today's organizations interact with data and applications constantly, whether for video conferencing or accessing database applications on remote devices. However, 61 percent of data center personnel confided that their corporate networks are not fit for the intended purpose, with almost half (41 percent) admitting that network downtime has caused their business financial hardship either directly -- through lost revenue or breached SLAs -- or from their customers' lack of confidence.

Related: 5 vital signs of healthy data center infrastructure

"Many data centers that exist today are based on 20-year-old technologies, and the simple fact is that they can no longer keep up with demand," remarks Jason Nolet, vice president, data center switching and routing at Brocade. "Virtualization and cloud models require greater network agility and performance, as well as reduced operational cost and complexity. The findings clearly show that despite apparent investment in the past few years, most organizations are still ill-equipped for current business demands."

Additional findings of the study include the following:

* On average, enterprises are upgrading their data center networks every two years, but 24 percent wait more than three years before investing in new technology.

* 79 percent of ITDMs acknowledge that departments within their businesses have deployed cloud-based services, with 13 percent admitting that these actions would have happened with no guidance from IT.

* Three-quarters of enterprises have on-premise data centers; 19 percent outsource.

* SDN's benefits are perceived to be increased productivity (42 percent), better access to real-time information (40 percent), improved uptime/availability (38 percent) and increased service delivery (30 percent).

* The average percentage of servers being virtualized today is 46 percent; by 2015, the goal is 59 percent.

* Sixteen percent of respondents said they experience daily network outages; database applications (41 percent), communication tools (30 percent) and Microsoft Office programs (25 percent) reportedly cause the most problems.

* Outages last on average 20 minutes, with two percent having to endure outages of more than an hour.

* More than a third of workers stated that outages have caused SLAs to be missed, with customers not receiving goods/services; 41 percent added that this has caused customers to seek recompense.

Fortunately, the study also found that many forward-thinking enterprises are making strides to deploy more scalable network environments, with 18 percent already using fabric-based networks, and 51 percent planning to roll out Ethernet fabrics in the next year in order to support virtualization plans. Also, many enterprises are apparently looking at deploying Software-Defined Networks (SDN) by 2015 -- to increase productivity, deliver better access to real-time information, and to improve availability/service delivery, according to respondents.

More than two-thirds of ITDMs reported that they would welcome an on-demand data center topology. This type of an infrastructure combines both physical and virtual networking elements that can provision the capacity (compute, network, storage and services) required to deliver high-value applications faster and easier compared to legacy data center networks. This approach is seen as a better way to address the challenges of provisioning new applications, services and devices to meet business requirements and pave the way for SDN.

Brocade recently outlined its vision for The On-Demand Data Center, which the company says represents a major evolution in networking toward a highly virtualized, open and flexible network infrastructure that unites the best aspects of virtual and physical networking across a cloud orchestration framework.

"Brocade is stepping up and answering the need with purpose-built Ethernet fabric solutions that meet both immediate and future data center requirements," concludes Nolet. "The Brocade vision for The On-Demand Data Center enables our customers to simplify and automate their networks, as well as dramatically improve network efficiency, utilization and performance. It also represents another logical step on the path toward mass customer adoption of SDN, which is what respondents say they need."

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