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3/21/2006
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Many Data Centers Still Have No Risk Management Plan

More than 75% have experienced a business disruption in the past five years, including 20% who say the disruption had a serious impact on the business, according to a recent survey of data center managers.

Business technology managers are facing tough challenges as data centers grow larger and more complex. More than 75% of all companies have experienced a business disruption in the past five years, including 20% who say the disruption had a serious impact on the business, according to a recent survey of data center managers.

Despite the critical nature of data center operations to business, nearly 17% reported they have no risk management plan, and less than 5% have plans that address viruses and security breaches.

The results, which were announced Tuesday at the Data Center World conference in Atlanta, are part of survey of nearly 200 members of AFCOM, a leading association for data center managers. "Data center professionals need to prepare for what is going on," said Jill Eckhaus, president of AFCOM. "If we don't prepare, companies are not going to be able to run their facilities efficiently. We are hoping we can raise awareness."

The survey was conducted by AFCOM's Data Center Institute, which is dedicated to improving data center management and operations. The results were part of the institute's "five bold predictions for the future of the data center industry."

The predictions: Within the next five years, one out of every four data centers will experience a serious disruption; by 2015, the talent pool of qualified senior-level technical and management data center professionals will shrink by 45%; by 2010, nearly 70% of all data centers will use some form of grid computing or virtual processing; by 2010, more than half of all data centers will have to relocate to new facilities or outsource some applications; and over the next five years, power failures and limits on power availability will halt data center operations at more than 90% of companies.

While the survey indicates that 83% of respondents say they have a risk management plan in place, nearly two-thirds of those plans are targeted at local, regional, and onsite interruptions and disasters; only 1.3% of the plans address security breaches, and 2.7% address viruses, said Chris Caprio, a board member of the Data Center Institute.

"The question becomes whether companies are focusing their dollars on potential disruptions that have the highest probability of affecting the organization," Caprio said.

The survey found that more than 60% of respondents say 10% or less of their data center budgets are allocated to risk management, while only 18% dedicate 25% or more of the budget in that area.

"In organizations that may have a $100 million IT budget that's supporting $5 billion or $6 billion in business, a 25% spend to ensure uptime and total recoverability, or even avoidance of an incident, may be well worth the investment," Caprio said.

The survey also found that 38% of respondents say they currently have unfilled positions in their data centers, and 15% say it usually takes six months or longer to fill open senior-level technical or management positions. Forty-seven percent believe finding qualified senior-level employees will become more difficult over the next five years.

While 42% don't foresee implementing some form of grid computing or virtual processing in their data center, 37% say they will within two years, 17% within five years, and 4% within 10 years. Of those expecting to implement grid or virtual processing, 60% indicate they will deploy a combination of utility, grid, and data sharing, and 17% plan data sharing, 13% grid computing, and 7% utility computing.

More than half of respondents anticipate needing to physically expand their data center in the next 10 years, with 5% planning to outsource and 13% planning a combination of expansion and outsourcing. Nearly a third expect to have to relocate their data centers, while 45% believe they will need to make major improvements to existing data centers.

In the past five years, 34% of respondents have had to upgrade or add feeders to their data centers to accommodate higher loads, 14% had to build new centers with additional capacity to meet IT requirements, and 8% had to ask landlords for more electrical capacity. Sixteen percent say they haven't made changes in the past five years, but anticipate they will in the next five years.

Twenty percent say their data center is currently exceeding 80% of power capacity in their data center, 49% say it's exceeding 50%, and 21% says the demands are between 25% and 50% of capacity.

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