Data center trends survey reveals gaps in cyber terrorism readiness, government greening

Oct. 27, 2009
AFCOM's 2009/2010 Data Center Trends survey also reveals that, despite the hype surrounding cloud computing, only 14.9 percent of data centers have deployed cloud platforms to date.

October 27, 2009 -- The data center association AFCOM announced the results of its 2009/2010 Data Center Trends survey, offering perspective and insights on the major trends facing 436 commercial, government and college/university data centers throughout the world; with twenty percent of these facilities responsible for budgets of $10M plus.

Significant findings of the survey reveal that though threat of cyber terrorism is real, it is not being adequately addressed by the world's keepers of the most confidential financial, military and personal data. In addition, the survey reveals that government is behind its private industry counterparts in terms of greening initiatives.

Meanwhile, the results show that the mainframe may be losing its place in worldwide data centers, as servers become more capable. Also significantly: cloud computing, despite the hype surrounding it, hasn’t pushed beyond 15 percent acceptance at this point. In comparison, 73 percent say they have implemented virtual processing.

“We designed this survey to better understand current trends in the industry, and to help our members understand what others are doing to get to that next level in operational effectiveness. In many cases, the results and analysis of this survey are bringing awareness to areas that need improvement,” says Jill Eckhaus, CEO of AFCOM. “For instance, the industry needs a clear definition of cloud computing and virtualization; we’ve supported data center professionals for three decades now, and many of these terms seem merely re-packaged and over-marketed new names for technologies that have actually been around for quite some time.”

Eckhaus adds, “Our analysis also shows that data center managers need to develop more comprehensive cyber terrorism policies, and get more aggressive in greening, particularly in government agencies where greening lags behind private industry. Finally, it’s time to decide where the mainframe is still viable and needed, and where high-end servers can do a more efficient job.”

The survey re-iterates that greening of the data center is no longer just a concept , but that it is actually taking place, and on a large scale, with 71.3 percent of all respondents indicating they are actively engaged in greening initiatives at this time. And while 71.3 percent are, in fact, engaged in greening, only 42.2 percent have a “formal” greening initiative. According to respondents, the most important results they have experienced as a result of implementing green measures are in power efficiency, 60.8 percent report they are using less power and 51.4 percent have implement cooling efficiency strategies. In addition to power and cooling efficiencies, 11.5 percent also report a significant savings in water usage.

Cyber terrorism has become even more prevalent in the past few years. From hackers attacking NATO computers to cyber-attacks in China, Estonia, Russia, Ukraine, South Korea and the U.S., it’s not likely a threat that will go away any time soon. Data center professionals must be well-equipped to handle and respond to cyber terrorist attacks, but according to AFCOM’s survey, there’s considerable room for improvement.

Respondents revealed that 60.9 percent of all data centers worldwide officially recognize cyber terrorism as a threat they need to deal with, but only a little over one-third (34.4 percent) have included it in their disaster/recovery plans, which would include their best defense plans if attacked. Only one in four, or 24.8 percent, has addressed cyber terrorism in their policies and procedures manuals and only 60.2 percent have a written policies and procedures manual. Meanwhile, less than one in five, or 19.7 percent provide any cyber terrorism employee training. On the positive side, however, 82.4 percent report that they do perform background security checks on all potential new employees, another solid defense against cyber terrorists.

Data center consolidation has historically been cyclical in this industry. As the economy suffers, more companies have traditionally looked to consolidation as a method of saving money. The economic downturn we are experiencing today is no exception, with 62.1 percent of all respondents either already in the process of consolidating one or more data centers, or seriously considering it. More than half of respondents (52.1 percent) plan to relocate their newly consolidated data center to another existing facility, or build an entirely new one to accommodate the additional requirements.

According to the survey, the technologies with the highest levels of adoption in today’s data centers are: virtual processing, implemented by 72.9 percent of all respondents, Web applications (70.4 percent), automation (54.8 percent) cluster computing (50. percent), and cloud computing (14.9 percent). Surprisingly, in addition to the slim 14.9 percent who utilize cloud computing, this technology has been considered by an additional 46.3 percent, but never implemented. AFCOM’s Data Center Institute (DCI) has undertaken an in-depth research project on the myths and realities surrounding cloud computing that will be released next March at AFCOM’s 2010 Data Center World in Nashville, Tennessee.

Only 39.6 percent of all data centers worldwide still operate mainframe computer systems today. In data centers that have mainframes installed, the median number in residence is two. And of all the data centers that have mainframes installed, 45.7 percent expect to replace one or more of them in the next two years. Of those that are expecting to replace their mainframes during the next two years, more than two out of three, or 67.1 percent will be replacing them with new mainframes, and 32.9 percent will be replacing them with high-end servers or other alternatives.

Based on this data, AFCOM concludes that the number of data centers using mainframes today versus five and ten years ago, is going down, and the future will continue this trend. Approximately one-third, or 32.9 percent of all existing mainframe data centers will no longer use mainframes in the future. Of all data centers with no installed mainframes today, 38.2 percent report that they did have them ten years ago and another 27.2 percent had them five years ago. And, according to respondents, five years from now, an additional one-third of those with mainframes today will no longer have them.

As witnessed by the number of performance monitoring tools and dashboards on display at AFCOM’s recent 2009 Data Center World in Orlando, performance monitoring in the data center is finally coming into its own, with many critical systems and components under 24/7 scrutiny. As the consequence of error in the data center has risen so dramatically (with the entire company dependent on all systems being continually available), the need to find and correct any and all malfunctions on the fly has become a necessity. In many cases, automated performance monitoring helps fulfill that need. According to the survey, power consumption is now being monitored by 68.1 percent of respondents, network traffic by 65.8 percent, storage capacity by 64.4 percent, server utilization by 61.7 percent and Web security by 54.1 percent.

Sixty percent of all respondents report that they expect to require additional data center space within the next five years. 32.6 percent expect to handle the growth and need for additional space by physically adding to and/or upgrading existing facilities and 30 percent report they will relocate to a new facility. Additional growth and expansion strategies to include 22.0 percent that will utilize a co-location center to meet their increased space requirements, 13.8 percent will use managed hosting services, and 11.2 percent will add pods or Data centers-in-a-box.

Nearly two out of three worldwide data centers, or 63 percent, report a dramatic increase in their storage requirements over the past five years. Another 35.9 percent report a ‘slight’ to ‘moderate’ increase and only percent of all data centers saw their storage requirement decrease. Somewhat surprisingly, only 8.3 percent report that the main cause of their increased storage needs has been government regulations – while a whopping 77.5 percent attribute it to business growth.

“We’ll use the results of the survey to help us plan tracks, sessions and round tables at the 2010 Data Center World conference in Nashville in order to help professionals develop solutions for trouble spots and share successes and failures to date around all these trends,” concludes AFCOM’s CEO Eckhaus.

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