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Surviving and thriving: facing recession and growth

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Spending priorities change with rising budgets

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Many storage managers now struggling to keep pace with explosive data growth will be kicking it into gear in 2004. While most look like they'll keep it in second or third gear, a significant number are back into overdrive, planning to spend over 10% more than 2003 levels. But it won't be back to the '90s, either, throwing disk at every problem. A more balanced approach--with spending up modestly on software, services and staff--is on the agenda at many shops.

That's the picture emerging from Storage's semiannual Purchasing Intentions survey, fielded in late August. The survey, taken by 500 storage managers (see "About the survey"), measures their spending plans for the coming year. Not only did 58% say they plan to spend more next year than this year, but 27% say they plan to spend better than 10% more (see Figure 1).

Follow-up interviews suggested that most managers are responding to four common challenges:

  1. Data growth continues unabated
  2. Regulatory compliance is now an important--if often secondary--factor
  3. Companies are actually getting serious about disaster recovery (DR)
  4. Technology refreshes are still a fact of life, and in some cases were delayed in 2003 because of the poor business climate.
In fact, the difference between the 15% who are cutting storage budgets and the 85% who are holding steady or increasing them seems to lie more in the last two factors than the first two. Companies facing dire fiscal situations are simply delaying technology refreshes and more elaborate DR plans--adding capacity to store new data is simply mandatory for most.

Kevin Metzger, a systems administrator at Progressive Medical Inc., in Overland Park, KS, cites file server growth of 300%-plus annually and database growth of 250%-plus annually as drivers for their spending increases. "While regulatory requirements have an impact, that is not the biggest single driver. Growth and disaster recovery/high availability are the prime drivers," says Metzger.

The magnitude of projects driving some firms is evident at a large global insurance broker, among those increasing spending by more than 10%. A storage manager for the firm says it has a plan for "document management systems, financial/accounting systems and other specialized client databases. All of this would be shared and replicated [for performance and disaster recovery] between data centers" on two continents. He says the spending is "atypical and historically, we only kept up with data growth."

At the other end of the spectrum, a number of respondents who were cutting spending cited poor business conditions. "Our need for storage is constantly growing, but like many companies, we are trying for now to do more with less," explains one such respondent.

In between are more typical companies, where data growth is in the 30% to 50% annual range, where spending will increase in the single digits and where DR and compliance will get definite attention, even if not as mirrored intercontinental data centers.

No bingeing on disk
One thing lean times seem to have done is to focus attention on a more balanced approach to building out the storage infrastructure. Storage managers indicated that compared to 2003, they'll be shifting approximately 7% of their budget from hardware to nearly every other category. (See Figure 2) Even staffing will likely get another percentage point of budget, with software getting a full two points. While that may reflect changes in vendors' bundling practices as much as any other factor, the overall picture is clear: Budgets are being adjusted to the networked, managed storage environment that's being built out at most large and many medium companies, with even small companies getting into the act now.

This was first published in October 2003

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