More IT managers plan to spend less, survey finds

EMC, NetApp take top spots as 'most exciting' IT companies

A survey of 278 IT managers found that spending on storage systems is expected to remain flat through next year because of the soft economy and new technologies that allow IT administrators to do more with what they already have.

The survey, conducted by research firm TheInfoPro in June, also asked IT managers which vendors they were most likely to stop doing business with. Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Sun Microsystems, which was acquired by Oracle in 2009, took the top spots.

For the second year, results showed Oracle struggling, TheInfoPro said in a statement. Asked how difficult it would be to switch vendors, 21% of the IT managers surveyed said it would be hard to replace Oracle, while 43% said it would be easy, and 35% said it would be "somewhat difficult." Meanwhile, 36% said it would be hard to switch from IBM, while 41% said it would be somewhat difficult and 23% said it would be easy. As for HP, 41% said it would be hard to switch, 26% said it would be easy, and 33% said it would be somewhat difficult.

In other areas, equipment from Hewlett-Packard and IBM was seen as highly replaceable, according to TheInfoPro, which also conducted hour-long interviews with the survey respondents. The IT managers polled said they would be most likely to choose products from EMC or Hitachi Data Systems if they were to replace their IBM equipment, said Marco Coulter, managing director of TheInfoPro's storage and cloud sectors, adding that 29% of IBM customers surveyed reported that they're planning to spend less this year than they did in 2009.

"From narratives we read from interviewees, it's mainly about their storage," said Coulter.

Among IT vendors, EMC remained the clear leader in respondents' minds when it came to storage-area network (SAN) systems and NetApp led the way for network-attached storage (NAS), Coulter said.

Respondents from Fortune 1,000 companies put five EMC products on the "most exciting products" list; they also named EMC itself as the most exciting company. EMC was rated second most exciting company by respondents at midsize enterprises, who put NetApp in the No. 1 spot in that category. Many of EMC's customers said they plan to spend more than $25 million with the company this year, TheInfoPro said in a statement.

In the category of data storage management software, CommVault came out ahead of Symantec, with 54% of CommVault customers indicating they will spend more on CommVault products in 2010. In comparison, 28% of Symantec customers said they will spend more on Symantec products.

"They're just sitting there taking away from Symantec. I think there's a lot of frustration with Symantec," Coulter said. "This is only my personal opinion, but I think people have used Symantec over the years and seen backup as very difficult with them, while CommVault has a slightly easier way of solving the backup problem.

CommVault also received high scores for technical support, Coulter said, where Symantec got slightly weaker scores.

The survey also showed that 28% of respondents said their spending on data storage systems would be flat this year, while 42% said the same would be true in 2011. Meanwhile, 42% of respondents said they expect to increase spending on storage this year and 30% said they plan to cut spending in that area.

"As we look at the storage market overall, there's still growth in 2010 and 2011, but we do see the growth rate slowing down," Coulter said. "Just keeping the lights on is becoming a growing narrative."

Indeed, for the first time, a category of spending titled "Just Keeping the Lights On" reached the No. 10 spot in the "new initiatives" list in TheInfoPro's survey.

The respondents, of whom 165 work at Fortune 1,000 companies and 113 work at midsize enterprises, said that dealing with capacity growth was the No. 1 pain point, followed by a lack of proper forecasting and reporting tools.

Many of the IT managers indicated that using thin provisioning approaches, which allocate storage to applications on an as-needed basis, helped them to better use their storage capacity. They also said they were able to reduce backup array and tape drive capacity through the use of de-duplication, Coulter said.

Coulter was quick to point out, however, that primary de-duplication -- technology that removes duplicate data before it's stored on disk storage systems -- is still mostly unused by large organizations.

"At some point, once you've thinly provisioned everything and de-duplicated everything, you can't continue to store more data on the capacity you have. At some point, storage growth will pick up," Coulter said.

The expected use of solid-state drives (SSD) in storage arrays, saw a modest 2% to 3% growth rate among those surveyed.

As in previous TheInfoPro surveys, virtualization and cloud computing remain top of mind this year, with 54% of respondents saying virtualization is changing roles and responsibilities and one in four indicating that they expect the majority of production to be virtualized by 2012. And, while 8% of enterprises use an external cloud for storage, 31% expect that by 2012 more than 25% of data services will be protected through the cloud.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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