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Even as more companies announce layoffs and the jobless rate hits a
16-year high, 43 percent of data center managers say that finding
qualified IT people to work in their organizations is either a big
problem or a huge problem.

That’s according to Symantec’s second annual State of the Data Center
survey of 1,600 data center management professionals with budgetary
responsibility. The survey was commissioned by Symantec and conducted
by Applied Research.

And while the survey was conducted in late September and early October
as the scope of the financial crisis was still being revealed, the
survey shows that there are specialized data center skill sets that
continue to be in high demand regardless of the current state of the
economy, according to Sean Derrington, director of storage management
and high availability at Symantec.

"The unemployment rate has increased since this survey was conducted,"
he says. "But these results show the demand for data center specialized
skill sets and the need for cross training. Channel partners need broad
skill sets that are as applicable to as many systems as possible."

The IT talent shortage was just one of the findings of Symantec’s
survey this year which also looked at issues such as IT training,
priorities for 2009, budgets for 2009 and the state of their disaster
recovery programs.

Overall data center managers say 2009 will be about doing more with
less and reducing costs. One way they sought to increase their
advantage? Training.

"Two-thirds of respondents look at training as a strategic and
important activity," Derrington says. With that in mind, 78 percent of
respondents say their training budgets will rise or stay constant in
the next year, a huge amount considering that industry is entering 2009
in a recession.

Derrington also noted that 45 percent of respondents said they will be
outsourcing some IT tasks in 2009–which means opportunity for
solution providers.

Another somewhat surprising result, especially given the focus on
reducing costs, was that half of respondents–50 percent–said they
expected their budgets to increase in the next 12 months. However,
Derrington said the watchword for budgets continued to be "caution."

"A large portion of IT budgets is about keeping the lights on,"
Derrington says, "and a small portion is focused on strategic tasks."

Taking some of that cost out of keeping the lights on continues to be a
focus for data center managers. So they are looking at increasing
server utilization and storage utilization.  According to the
Symantec-commissioned survey, servers were typically running at 53
percent utilization.

"This is higher than we would expect, but it shows more and more server
virtualization continues to be deployed," Derrington says. "But it
could also indicate that they don’t know what their server utilization
is."

Respondents reported that their storage utilization was at 50 percent.
The ideal, Derrington says, is 60 to 80 percent for servers, depending
upon the volatility of workloads.

Derrington says that ideal server utilization rates vary widely because
of differences in workloads.  However, on the storage side, where
there is more predictability, the ideal utilization rate would be
between 60 percent and 80 percent.

A full 76 percent of respondents in the survey said they are pursuing a
storage virtualization initiative. Such initiatives can pay off big
time, says Derrington. For example, a company that could put off buying
new storage for a year would next year pay only 40 percent of what the
same storage technology would have cost them this year.

"There was a very large financial institution that was only using 12
percent of the storage they had," says Derrington. "They used Veritas
Command Central to give them that information. In the last year they’ve
improved their utilization from 12 percent to 41 percent.

"It’s about identifying un-utilized asset," Derrington says.

Finally, one in five respondents to the survey says their
organization’s disaster recovery plan is "inadequate." A full 30
percent of virtual servers were not covered by tier one disaster
recovery plans. And 27 percent of the respondents said their disaster
recover plans "needed work."