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How data centers cope with the economic downturn

(Matt Stansberry, Executive Editor, TechTarget) Between February and March 2009, conducted a survey on how data center managers are coping in the economic downturn. Subscribers were contacted by email and 235 end users, primarily in U.S.-based IT shops, responded.

The data shows that IT budgets took a major hit in the first quarter of 2009. Nearly 70% of the respondents said they face budget cuts, and one-third must deal with budget cuts of more than 20%.

The largest cuts across IT budgets come from staff reductions, followed distantly by reductions in spending on server hardware, application software and systems management tools, respectively.

Despite the cuts, demand for IT and data center services keeps growing. And about 30% of respondents are proceeding with all planned data center projects. Twenty-five percent have canceled some data center projects, 17% are scaling all projects back, and only 4% are canceling projects altogether.

Crafting a survival strategy
In the face of increasing compute demand, how are cash-strapped IT organizations getting by? Primarily by making their servers last longer in production. Servers are typically replaced every three years. Two-thirds of IT shops have extended the production life of server deployments in 2009. More than 35% say they'll keep servers in production for six months to a year longer, 34% say they'll extend server lifecycles by two years.

IT pros said prolonging server work life is a viable option. "This is definitely a workable strategy; systems don't suddenly stop working when they're depreciated off the books. The three-year-lifecycle is more of an accounting issue than a matter of hardware reliability," said Bill Bradford, the senior systems administrator at an energy services firm in Texas.

"As long as a server is doing what it is supposed to do and is keeping up with workload, I don't see anything wrong with keeping it around as long as warranty service and/or spare parts are available. It's an extreme case, but I've seen 12-year-old systems in production simply because they still worked just fine, plenty of spare parts were on hand, and there was no driving reason to put their functionality on a newer platform."

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