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Understaffed Data Centers Threaten Service Agreements, Study Finds

More than half of the respondents to a Symantec survey admitted their data centers are currently understaffed, and 86% say they have difficulty finding qualified applicants.

Understaffed with workers that have inadequate skills sets, half of all large-scale enterprise IT departments have failed to meet internal service level agreements within the past two years, according to a recently published "State of the Data Center" research report by Symantec.

More than half of the respondents to the survey say their data centers are currently understaffed, and 86% say they have difficulty finding qualified applicants. Nearly two-thirds of the companies surveyed believe their staff skill sets are too narrow, and 57% indicate that employees' skill sets do not match their current needs.

The Symantec survey focused on Global 2000-sized organizations and more than 800 data center managers and other IT executives were surveyed in phone interviews and focus groups around the world, said Sean Derrington, a director of storage management for Symantec.

Data centers managers are facing a growing list of challenges, Derrington said, as they attempt to reduce cost and meet service level agreements, while working with small and often ill-trained staffs in an attempt to address rising complexity.

"One participate in a focus group in London told us that while the service level agreements he was being asked to meet were 'absurd,' there was really nothing that could be done but adapt to the new levels of expectations for IT delivery," Derrington said. "But these data center managers are having a hard time finding qualified staff, retaining qualified staff, and finding administrators with the right skill sets necessary to deliver appropriate business application value."

Two-thirds of respondents say they have formal service level agreements inside their organizations, and 51% say they have failed to meet at least some of those agreements in the past two years. Part of the reason is that 85% of data center managers say service level agreements have increased over the past few years, while actual budget have remained stagnant.

According to survey, the data center operational costs are growing at 5% a year, and although the average IT budget is growing at 7%, when adjusted for inflation there is little or no actual budget growth, Derrington said.

Server virtualization and consolidation are considered top cost containment strategies for most respondents, with 90% at least discussing virtualization, and 50% implementing virtualization strategies. Ninety-one percent are at least discussing server consolidation, and 58% are actively pursuing consolidation efforts.

But consolidation and virtualization add their own complexities, and large enterprises are currently using multiple virtualization platforms within their organizations. According to the study, companies based in the United States have implemented 2.3 different virtualization platforms; while business outside the United States have implemented an average of 2.7 different virtualization packages.

"Not only is the physical data center heterogeneous and complex, but now the virtualized infrastructure is also heterogeneous and complex," Derrington said. "The day to day requirements for more centralized management were already increasing, and virtualized environments are making things even more complex while resources remain limited."

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