How the channel can make money in the data centre

By Maxine Cheung, ITBusiness.ca |  Channel, Symantec

The 2008 State of the Data Centre global research report, sponsored by Symantec and conducted by Applied Research Associates Inc., reveals the majority of business organizations are struggling with having to do more with less.

But despite this whole having to do more with less business approach, the channel will actually see more business opportunities open up in the data centre market moving forward, says Marty Ward, senior director, product marketing for Symantec's data protection group.

"Customers of all sizes are looking for ways to increase service levels and reduce their energy costs," Ward said. "Channel partners have the ability to come in with solutions that can be on budget and can upgrade their customers from an innovation perspective because they can talk about efficiencies."

The annual State of the Data Centre survey was conducted last September to October and included 1,600 responses from executives working in organizations of 5,000 employees and larger in 21 countries. Of the 1,600 respondents, 644 were from the Americas region, which includes the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Mexico.

In Canada, 31 per cent of the respondents indicated reducing costs and improving responsiveness was a top business objective for the year. This differed slightly from the rest of the world, which totaled 37 per cent.

"The initiatives most often mentioned to cut costs in Canada were to reduce data centre complexity, server consolidation and virtualization consolidation, and standardizing on the solution stack," Ward said. "In Canada, 37 per cent of respondents said a big issue is being understaffed. This was pretty much on par with the rest of the world which was at 36 per cent."

For partners, Ward says outsourcing tasks this year will be an strong source of opportunity and revenue. In the report, 63 per cent of Canadian companies said they outsourced some tasks (compared to 45 per cent with the rest of the world). By outsourcing, businesses save money by allowing their staff members focus on other tasks within the business.

With regards to category-specific technology solutions, Ward says server consolidation and server virtualization came in first place with 85 per of respondents willing to pursue those areas. Additionally, 84 per cent said they would pursue a strategy of standardizing server and storage management within the data centre.

Data centres going "green" was another trend, where 31 per cent of Canadian corporate headquarters said they want their data centres to be "green." When analyzing the benefits of going green, 46 per cent were attributed to reducing energy consumption, while 23 per cent were linked to reducing the use of polluting energy, and another 23 per cent was tied to reducing cooling costs.

HP is an example of a company that has adopted a green data centre strategy. Bill Dupley, an IT strategist for HP Canada, said the company, which has six data centres located in the U.S., has implemented a smart cooling technology that uses chillers to cool the areas in the data centres that are hot. That way, he says, the company has been able to reduce its electric bill for cooling by about 60 per cent.

Dupley, who also has insight into data centres around the world, says the most common problem for organizations today is the issue of having too many data centres.

"This tends to become more expensive and to some extent, not necessary," he said. "Companies need to simplify those data centres and work to consolidate them."

Partners can bring in technology solutions to help businesses with data centre automation, green IT practices, virtualization and so forth, Dupley says. Partners can also add more value by helping the customer plan more strategically because now, he says, most partners just focus on the delivery and installation of hardware and software solutions.

"Not many partners focus on design or transformational work," he explains. "Partners can also go to market with their services and be more consultative because that's where the opportunities are. Customers want a true solution with hardware, software, services and forward thinking and design."

Ward suggests as a starting point, every channel partner should ask their data centre clients what their top objectives are and what specific areas in the data centre they'd like to address.

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