Editor’s note: WRAL Local Tech Wire has added another feature with the launch of the "Innovation Exchange." Noah Garrett, former executive director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, is a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, and now operates NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Among the many challenges IT executives face in today’s rapidly changing environment is data-center power management and virtualization, according to a new independent survey released this week.

Avocent, an IT operations management firm based in Alabama, this week revealed results of an independent survey that showed companies are seeking better visibility into their data-center operations to help mitigate business continuity challenges, better manage virtualized systems and applications, and control power consumption and overall complexity.

For the survey, Actionable Research polled 299 IT executives in the U.S. in manufacturing, high technology, retail, banking, health care, education and government, asking them what they found to be the top challenges in aligning IT with overall business objectives.

"Our survey confirms that businesses are indeed challenged most by the need to effectively manage the increased complexity in today’s data centers while at the same time keeping networks running smoothly and power-consumption costs down," explained Ben Grimes, Avocent CTO and vice president of corporate strategy.

"The findings further tell us that many administrators lack the tools they need to properly manage power usage in data centers – only 55 percent say they can monitor power usage today, and even then it’s mostly at the UPS level," added Grimes. "These statistics show there’s a huge opportunity to improve overall data-center management and a strong desire to implement ‘green’ IT solutions."

Survey respondents said that energy conservation was the most difficult issue to resolve with their current tools. Respondents felt that managing the total cost of power was the second most difficult task, and many of the respondents noted that their interest and work with virtualization technology were influenced by the hope of ultimate energy savings.

The top reason for deploying virtual servers was for cost savings. Of those polled, 32 percent also stated they initially looked to virtualization as a means of decreasing hardware costs. Their responses, however, showed two key concerns with managing server virtualization: 45 percent said they had concerns about the lack of expertise that IT personnel had with virtualization; and another 44 percent said they were concerned virtual servers could fail from a component failure in a single physical server.

Business continuity, in the form of network uptime, is a constant challenge for those polled. There are significant costs tied to downtime, including disgruntled or lost customers, reduced worker productivity, and reduced revenues tied to network failure. Survey responses indicated that 35 percent of companies have lost mission-critical data due to unplanned downtime.

The survey also found that businesses plan to maximize the use of their existing servers and equipment through the end of 2008. Last year, survey respondents reported that IT budgets put an average of 39 percent toward technology and 36 percent toward personnel.

These numbers were consistent across the different segments in the survey, with the largest companies spending slightly more on personnel than others. According to respondents, there is little or no projected budget distribution change for 2008, both overall and among companies of similar size.

The survey is an interesting read and provides some good insight into what companies face when managing complex system, network and data-center challenges as well as the unique issues faced when integration between dissimilar networks is necessary.

Regardless of specifics, it is clear from responses that issues relating to data center complexity will continue to shape many of the IT decisions made throughout the remainder of 2008 and beyond.

A full copy of the survey is available at