Data center lock-down is top concern.

IT execs put data center security at the top of their list of concerns in the coming year, according to a new IDG study.

Data center expenditures take up more than one-quarter of overall IT budgets, according to a new study released by IDG Enterprise. The market research firm (and ITworld’s parent company) released the results this week from its 2011 Data Center Survey, which was completed by more than 1,700 IT and security decision makers across a range of industries.

Specifically, the survey found that 28 percent of overall IT budgets are spent on data centers. While that percentage isn’t expected to grow or decrease in the next two years, overall data center investments are on the rise, the study found.

I am not surprised that data centers comprise such a chunk of any organization’s IT budget. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said data centers are increasingly becoming a significant IT priority. Whenever a technology or IT process becomes a priority, that’s reflected in the budget. And it is a good thing data centers have become a priority. Data centers are the nexus of any organization’s IT environment; they house the critical infrastructure, data and applications that serve almost all business processes.

Perhaps what I found most refreshing is that, when asked about top concerns over the next 12 months, IT execs gave data center security top billing. You all might recall that I just wrote a blog (you can read it here), in which former VP and CIO Joe Puglisi expressed concern about whether data center security was being pushed to the back burner in light of economic woes. In fact, 36 percent said security was their top concern. Storage concerns came in second (makes sense considering our ongoing data explosion) at 28 percent, and risk management came third at 24 percent (and of course, risk management is closely related to security). Twenty-three percent identified operational costs, as mentioned above, and 22 percent identified availability as a top concern.

In another nod to security, a whopping 83 percent said the ability to meet security requirements topped the list of important factors when evaluating data center technology vendors. Eighty-three percent also chose support and service, while 80 percent picked integration to existing infrastructure.

But today’s data centers have also become cost centers. They can be very expensive to build, maintain, and manage. In today’s pressurized economy – with no room for extravagance – IT executives are looking for ways to save. In fact, nearly a quarter, or 23 percent, said that operational costs of their data centers were too high.

The quest for those savings can be seen in the study’s findings about which technologies and trends are at the top of the list. Virtualization technologies represented the most significant technology/trend impacting data center investments in the next twelve months. Specifically, the survey found that server virtualization garnered the highest significance (48 percent) and that storage virtualization took second place (37 percent). Desktop virtualization came in at 34 percent.

Data center consolidation – another top trend designed to minimize costs, boost efficiencies, and improve capabilities – is ongoing. The study found that organizations still have physical data denter consolidation to do, with 19 percent saying that amount of work is significant and 40 percent saying that amount of work is moderate. When broken out by size, enterprise organizations said they have even more consolidation work to do: 23 percent said they have a significant amount of consolidation left and 48 percent said they have a moderate amount.

Another interesting finding is that the majority (58 percent) of survey participants still own and operate their own data centers. About a third, or 33 percent, outsource some, and only nine percent outsource all their data center operations.

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