By Cara Garretson
Midsized companies are picking up on new trends such as cloud computing and storage virtualization more quickly than their larger and smaller counterparts, according to Symantec's third annual Data Center Study, released Monday. But companies of all sizes are concerned by the growing complexity of their data centers.
The study also found that midsized companies, defined as having between 2,000 and 9,999 employees, expect to see more changes in their data centers this year, thanks in part to the addition of new applications. They also are putting more emphasis on staffing and training in 2010 than larger and smaller companies, according to Symantec. The study was conducted in November by surveying 1,780 data center managers in 26 countries.
"We found that it is the mid-sized data enterprises that are vanguards of the data center. They lead in new technology adoption, data center change and focus on staffing," says the study. These findings came as a surprise, says Symantec, since the assumption had been that large enterprises are usually on the cutting edge of technology, not mid-sized organizations.
Among the newer technology trends that midsized companies are adopting more quickly are storage and server virtualization, public and private cloud computing, replication, server consolidation, continuous data protection, and data deduplication, says Symantec.
Perhaps as a result of being on the forefront of technology adoption, medium-sized companies are also planning for more change in their data centers during 2010 than larger or smaller companies. According to the survey, 53 percent of midsized businesses "expect to make significant changes to their data center" this year, compared with 41 percent of large enterprises and 34 percent of small businesses.
Some of those significant data-center changes will come from the introduction of new applications. Sixty-six percent of respondents at midsized companies said the number of applications in their data center will grow somewhat quickly or quickly in 2010, while 46 percent of large enterprises answered the same.
But with these new applications come added complexity. Asked what the biggest impediments were to staff productivity, 36 percent of the respondents said too many applications were a "big/huge problem."
One survey participant, who was unnamed but described as a Seattle-based IT manager at a midsized enterprise, said, "Midsized companies exist in what I would call the 'Goldilocks zone.' Whereas large companies take several years just to evaluate anything. And small companies lack resources, mid-sized companies have just the right mix of resources and agility to quickly tackle new technologies."
Symantec theorizes that the main drivers to being on the cutting edge of data-center technology are available resources and a willingness to take risks; two factors that often come together in a medium-sized business.
"Small enterprises are scrappy and very willing to take risk, yet they lack the resources to adopt a large number of technology initiatives. Large enterprises have the resources but are generally risk-averse," says the study. "It is the midsized enterprise that … have just the right combination of available resources and willingness to take risks."
According to the Symantec study, respondents' key initiatives for 2010 fall into the following areas: security, back-up and recovery, and continuous data protection.
As with the 2009 survey, respondents said they are having trouble keeping their data centers properly staffed. More than half of the respondents said they are somewhat/extremely understaffed, and more than three-quarters said they have the same or more open positions as they did twelve months ago.
In particular, respondents said that they need to fill positions related to networking, virtualization, and security. Budget restrictions and inability to find qualified staff were the two biggest reasons for the unfilled positions, according to Symantec.
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