What’s Wrong with Most Data Centers?

Ever-evolving scale, compliance, and security requirements make the modern data center a uniquely challenging environment. According to a new global data study of 1,750 IT decision makers, many data centers fail to meet these challenges, with network failure a commonplace occurrence.

Networking vendor Brocade commissioned the study, which third-party research firm Vanson Bourne carried out. One of the top-line findings in the study shows that 91 percent of decision makers indicated that their data centers require some type of upgrade. That’s a startling number, but not necessarily a completely negative indicator.

“There is always room for improvements and upgrades,” Jason Nolet, vice president of data center switching and routing at Brocade, told Enterprise Networking Planet. “While there was no specific indication as to what is missing, common challenges organizations encounter when upgrading infrastructure include: budget, specific requirements of end-users and lack of supporting evidence of new technology.”

Modern data centers also need improvements to help prevent failures. A third of respondents reported numerous network failures every week. When network outages occur, they tend to last an average of 20 minutes. In terms of workloads that cause network failure issues, database applications lead the list at 41 percent, followed by communication tools at 30 percent and Microsoft Office programs at 25 percent.

As to the root causes of the failures, the answer is somewhat broad.  

“The failures were likely indicative of a frail infrastructure,” Nolet said.

Server Virtualization

In the modern data center, the trend is to move away from physical bare metal servers for application workload deployment to virtualized servers.

The Brocade-sponsored study found that less than half of servers (46 percent) in respondents’ data centers are currently virtualized. The target for respondents is to hit 59 percent server virtualization by 2015.


Software Defined Networking (SDN) extends the basic concept behind server virtualization to networking. The Brocade study found that SDN is currently being implemented across 19 percent of the survey base.

As to why IT decision makers are considering moving to SDN, there are a number of perceived benefits. 42 percent of respondents indicated that SDN would lead to increased productivity, and 40 percent said it could lead to better access to real-time information. Improved uptime/availability was cited as a benefit by 38 percent of respondents. 30 percent identified increased service delivery as a benefit.

Moving forward, Nolet expects that if Brocade were to commission a similar study next year, there would be some changes.

“We would anticipate a higher adoption rate for new technologies such as NFV and SDN, an increase in fabric networks and a decrease in the amount of network failures,” Nolet said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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