Survey Reveals Fear Over Budgets, Jobs

A recent survey, ?Managing IT in a Difficult Economy,? sums up what life is like in the IT world these days?and it?s not very different from the rest of the world. Budgets: stagnant or down. Staff: trimmed. Jobs: staff worried about losing them.

Sixty-two percent of the 300 managers polled for the survey, which was commissioned by Symantec and fielded by Applied Research-West, said their IT budgets will remain stagnant or be reduced even further in 2009. Not surprisingly, 42 percent of the respondents expressed concern about their own job security because of the economy, and 39 percent were concerned about a reduced overall IT work force, which would result in fewer IT workers to handle critical issues (41 percent). In fact, 66 percent reported that their IT staffs will stay the same or be cut back this year.

?Symantec has taken the pulse of the industry,? said Andi Mann, vice president of research at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), in a recent interview. ?Much of the data in the survey mirrors what we?re seeing.?

Beyond overall budgets and staffing, hardware and software were reported to be under duress as well. Specifically, 44 percent of respondents predicted less investment in new technology in the near future, 38 percent feared there would be delays in upgrading IT management software and another 38 percent forecast delays ahead in the migration of new hardware.

The survey respondents also had concerns about managing the IT process in these troubled economic times. There were some bright spots, however. The areas that would be ?somewhat or greatly helpful in managing IT? included the ability to automate common tasks (47 percent), tools to maximize uptime (43 percent), remote diagnostic tools (42 percent) and user productivity through virtualization (40 percent).

One of the more interesting questions in the survey involved budget control: Fifty-four percent of respondents said they actively manage less than 60 percent of their IT assets; only 31 percent manage 81 percent to 100 percent of these assets.

Christine Ewing, director of product marketing for the Endpoint Management Group at Symantec, explained the import of this. ?As IT organizations struggle to manage the exploding number of desktops, laptops, mobile devices and servers, a thorough asset discovery is necessary to understand what could and should be managed,? she said via e-mail. ?This survey confirms how difficult it is to manage this complexity.? Ewing added that there are numerous consequences for organizations that don?t have a good handle on these systems, including unchecked software and hardware expenditures, poor security and increased potential attack vectors, and inadequate information protection and compliance.

Automation and Virtualization

The final set of survey questions pertained to automation and virtualization. Seventy-one percent of the managers said the ability to automate tasks would benefit their schedule, 39 percent believed endpoint virtualization could increase productivity, 27 percent said endpoint virtualization could help decrease complexity, and 39 percent thought endpoint virtualization could help decrease costs. To attain some of these benefits, 74 percent said they are at least considering plans to implement endpoint virtualization.

Endpoint is a pain, said EMA?s Mann, noting that if IT execs can?t manage these systems well, things can get very expensive. What?s more, he believes that the endpoint problem is orders of magnitude larger than the server management problem. ?We estimate, conservatively, that there are a hundred endpoint systems for every one server in most companies?and it?s sometimes more,? Mann stated. ?So supporting the endpoint is that much more complex.?

But endpoint virtualization is only one solution. ?A lot of the cost decrease revolves around administration and management,? he explained. ?Virtual desktops are really living in the data center, so you don?t have to travel and waste time taking care of any problems. In the end, this is a productivity goal.

?In some instances?and this is pure automation and not necessarily a function of virtualization?central support doesn?t even get involved with applications anymore because of on-demand provisioning. In the end, it?s all about manageability and reducing the IT touch?and letting end users get on with the job. It?s all about management.?

Mann said this is why some budgets are increasing, however little: Money is being allocated for automation and virtualization. ?These budgets remain resilient; they?re bucking the trend,? he said. ?That?s because they offer a big payback.?