Data Center Spending Stays Strong, AFCOM Says

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Many companies are stepping up their data center investments even as they try to make cutbacks in other parts of their business, according to survey released Monday by AFCOM, the association for data center professionals.

The investments are a sign that company executives recognize the important role data centers play in their business, particularly as more services and processes go online, according to AFCOM founder and former president Len Eckhaus.

Half the respondents to AFCOM's survey said their data center budget had increased this year compared to 2007, while a third said it stayed flat and 18 percent said it declined. Forty three percent expected their budget to increase again next year, in most cases by about 10 percent.

"Part of it is because of the Internet and everything going online. Part of it is that executives these days have a better idea what their data center is doing for them," Eckhaus said.

The investments are also being driven by efforts to improve power efficiency, which can lead to savings. About 80 percent of the respondents said they expect to do more "greening initiatives" this year and next.

The results are based on responses from 312 data center professionals working mostly in the U.S., with a few in Canada, Asia and Europe. About two thirds work in IT and one third in facilities. The survey was conducted in May, before the U.S. financial crisis, but one data center manager said the results hold true for his company today.

Tom Roberts is director of data center facility management at Trinity Information Services, which supports the IT needs for Trinity Health System and its 17 hospitals around the U.S. His data center budget increased for this year and next and he expects it to increase again in 2010, he said.

Trinity Health has been moving clinical systems and patient administration systems out of its hospitals and centralizing them in its main data centers. The company's senior leadership, who he described as "avid investors in IS," have seen several benefits from the centralization but also realize the need for additional investment to ensure the systems are always available when needed.

"It comes down to putting in very hard and fast DR [disaster recovery] systems for all the main systems we have for our hospitals, and making sure they are available when they're needed," he said. The new investments at Trinity will also go towards meeting increased power and cooling needs, he said.

The survey results are being presented Monday morning at AFCOM's Data Center World conference in Orlando.

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