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From Australia to Italy, from Canada to Columbia and from the U.S. to South Africa, pragmatism is the order of the day for IT departments as they struggle to stretch their 2010 budgets and resources to make much needed infrastructure upgrades in the face of a still uncertain and tight economy.
Those are the results of a new 2010 IT & Technology Trends survey which polled over 500 respondents from 18 countries worldwide on IT budget and staffing issues for the year ahead. ITIC partnered with Stratus Technologies and Sunbelt Software to poll C-level executives and IT managers. The results indicate that businesses are in a better place now than they were at the close of 2010. And there’s even a hint of cautious optimism in the air. The survey results indicate that by and large organizations of all sizes and across all verticals will maintain IT staffing levels and budgets during 2010 as they continue to implement upgrade and migration projects that began in 2009.
Nearly one-third of organizations – 31% — revealed that their IT budgets will remain the same in 2010, while 27% say their budgets will increase and an 17% minority said IT budgets will decrease in the New Year. Interestingly, 15% of respondents said their 2010 IT budgets are still not approved and 10% remain unsure of their budgets for the next 12 months.
Among respondents who indicated their budgets will increase, the largest percentage – 27% — say the increases will be modest in the four-to-six percent range. Only 3% indicated their budgets would rise by 30% or more while 50% are unsure.
And among the 17% minority of respondents who say their budgets will decrease, the cuts will be minimal or modest. Some 7% say they will decline by one-to-three percent, while another 11% say they will decline by four-to-six percent. Only 7% of the respondents indicated their firms will slash 2010 IT budgets by 21% or more; 68% said they weren’t sure how big the budget declines would be.
IT Hiring: Modest but Stable
Based on the survey responses it is apparent that IT staffing levels are stable. However, it’s safe to say that very few firms would consider themselves fully staffed or even at pre-December 2007 levels, which was when the U.S. Government officially said the recession began.
And while the economy has not fully recovered, there is a sense from the survey respondents that the worst may be behind them. Over half of those polled – 52% — said their organizations will maintain current IT staffing levels for 2010. In a sign that business is improving, 25% of those polled say their organizations will hire additional IT staff as needed in the coming 12 months. Only a very small 2% minority say their firms are planning layoffs. Another 14% of respondents, say their organizations have made no decisions on hiring and are taking a wait and see approach.
Current IT staffing levels: Surprisingly just over one-quarter — 26% — of survey respondents indicated their IT departments are smaller now than they were in 2008. The biggest percentage – 42% — responded “No” while another 32% say their IT staffing levels are about the same as they were a year ago.
The anecdotal responses from around the globe all shared a common thread: pragmatism and a desire to do what it takes to weather the ongoing economic downturn. The uncertainty of the economy and how to Many respondents voiced concern about staying on top of crucial issues like security, disaster recovery and finding the funds to make the necessary desktop and server hardware, software and application upgrades.
But once again, pragmatism seems to be the byword. Many of the survey respondents simply said they’re picking up the slack and working harder and longer hours. It’s also apparent that some vertical markets have been hit harder by the recession than others. Government agencies, state and local municipalities have suffered. Likewise, the automotive industry and smaller hospitals and consulting firms have also been hit hard over the past 18 months.
An IT manager at a small government agency noted that a large part of their budget comes from state and federal grants. “Those sources are about dry in this economy. We took a 65% cut in state funding this year and pray that we can maintain that low level in next year’s state budget rather than take another cut,” he said.
An IT manager at a mid-sized U.S. consulting firm said his organization is just trying to weather the severe downturn. “Our existing clients have cut back on spending and only do what is absolutely necessary to keep their systems running. New clients are much more difficult to cultivate, so survival over this period is the top priority,” he observed.
“Our main goal is to keep the infrastructure updated, supported and available with less staff,” said an IT manager at a mid-sized healthcare firm with one thousand users.
No one is sure when the economy will rebound to pre-2007 levels. Meanwhile, IT departments are doing the only thing they can do: endure. The silver lining in the cloud is that most organizations have adapted to the belt tightening and working longer hours and have somehow generally managed to keep the corporate data centers up and running. It may not be comfortable or optimal but it’s working.

The most incredible deal of this holiday season — and one that customers will be hard pressed to refuse — is Stratus Technologies’ pledge of Zero downtime for customers or $50,000 cash back.
Here’s how it works: organizations that purchase any standard configuration of Stratus Technologies’ most current ftServer 6300 enterprise-class x86 fault tolerant server equipped with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and the required service contract, are eligible for $50,000 or product credit if the server hardware, Stratus system software or operating system failures cause unplanned downtime in a production environment within the guarantee period. The guarantee period lasts up to six months following server deployment. Stratus executives vow that there are no hidden clauses or trap doors in the guarantee.
Stratus Technologies, headquartered in Maynard, Ma. has built its reputation on delivering rock-solid reliability of 99.999% uptime. That’s the equivalent of less than one minute of per server downtime in a year! This is an admirable achievement by any standard.
The ftServer 6300 line is Powered by 2.93 GHz X5570 Intel Quad-Core Xeon™ processors, the ftServer 6300 is optimized for large data center multi-tasking applications with high transaction rates, such as credit card authorization processing, high speed ATM networks, and as a powerful engine for database applications and virtualization environments. A typical ftServer 6300 configuration can actually cost less than the value of the payout. The offer is open to customers worldwide, and the program ends Feb. 26, 2010.
Specifically, customers can choose from a custom version of the ftServer 6300 or one of two pre-configured bundled configurations. The ftServer 6300 Power Bundles #1 and #2 are robust, high-end configurations that consist of Microsoft Windows Server operating system, disk drives and supporting peripherals, with a significant package discount compared to individually priced system components. Other server models in the ftServer line are not included in this program.
Stratus Technologies’ decision to quite literally put its money where its mouth is is a bold move and one that the overwhelming majority of vendors would never consider. In fact, ITIC can’t recall any high tech hardware vendor in recent memory, offering these same terms. However, Roy Sanford, Stratus chief marketing officer, said the deal underscores confidence in Stratus Technologies is of its ability to deliver the highest levels — 99.999% uptime — or greater. “The Zero Downtime program is a show of confidence that our products consistently perform at the highest levels of availability. Our guarantee is right out there for all to see, customers and competitors alike.”
Corporate enterprises that are risk averse, those that demand the highest levels of uptime or those that are in a betting mood are well advised to check out the Terms and Conditions of Stratus Technologies offer. You’ve literally got nothing to lose. Stratus Technologies: http://www.stratus.com

The decision by IBM’s Systems and Technology Group (STG), to launch a new Systems Software Business Unit (BU) was one of the more significant announcements in what was inarguably a jam-packed Analyst Summit. Helene Armitage, who will serve as General Manager (GM) of System Software noted that it aligns perfectly with IBM’s broader strategy in hardware, services and networking, stating that “Systems software is the integrating force in the data center. Virtualization is the foundation of the data center and management is the backbone [of the data center]. The Systems Software Business Unit is a key STG growth engine and it will enable us to deliver value across all IBM hardware plans.”
The Systems Software Business Unit will provide the integration framework for STG and act as the glue that enables seamless end to end virtualization and platform management and other capabilities. Systems Software covers some 160 products including: management, energy, security, availability, operating systems (OS) and virtualization. According to Armitage, IBM recently conducted a study with over 200 of its corporate clients on virtualization and management and found that clients are strategically investing in their IT infrastructure to drive business value.
IBM’s findings track closely with the results of ITIC’s 2009-2010 Virtualization Deployment Trends Survey conducted in August and the 2010 IT & Technology Trends Survey which polled 500 businesses worldwide in December 2009. The results of both surveys revealed that upgrading server hardware; deploying server virtualization software and deploying new applications in support of business objectives were among the top three IT spending priorities for 2010 for nearly 50% of the survey respondents.
Additionally, the 2009-2010 Virtualization Deployment Trends Survey revealed that almost 30% of businesses will undertake a private or public cloud computing initiative over the next 12 months. This makes virtualization management and fast, efficient, reliable service and support imperative. The results from both ITIC surveys both emphasize that C-level executive managers and IT departments strongly base their purchasing decisions on doing business with vendors who have a track record of superior technology, service and support.
From this standpoint, Armitage said IBM is perfectly poised, via its comprehensive System Software product portfolio, to address the shift from purely physical management to the integration of physical and virtual systems, storage and network resources. IBM, she said is adapting as the business needs of its corporate customers similarly adjust “to optimize energy usage, maximize resource utilization and keep the corporate data assets secure.”
Armitage acknowledged that IBM has not been in the “industry conversation on virtualization,” but said that Big Blue aims to change that in the coming months to be more visible. To accomplish this IBM will focus on a number of key areas including: physical consolidation; virtual system pools; integrated service management and cloud computing.
Armitage noted that the 200 corporate clients that participated in the aforementioned IBM study are using cloud computing as an access model. The goal of STG and the new Systems Software group is to help corporate customers unlock more value in virtualization than they are currently realizing. To accomplish this, the company will deliver products, tools and services that will assist customers in automating and optimizing, Armitage said.
IBM’s just released Systems Director version 6.1 is one of the lynchpins in the company’s strategy and is designed to run as a standalone product. Though the Systems Software BU and IBM’s Tivoli group exist and operate independent of one another, they do share a joint design and architecture team which have agreed upon APIs. “It’s not quite a joint development team,” Armitage said, “but there is a strong collaborative effort between System Software and the Tivoli team,” she said.
IBM Systems Director Software v 6.1 provides businesses with single point of control to manage all aspects of their data center operations, and integrates best-of-breed IBM virtualization capabilities to provide faster, more efficient means of ameliorating the management of physical and virtual platform resources. Systems Director 6.1 incorporates a singular user interface (UI) to perform common tasks and also delivers a consistent and unified view of the IT environment in its entirety, including servers, storage and network assets. Corporations can use Systems Director as a standalone tool or in conjunction with IBM’s Tivoli to reduce data center management tasks and expense.
Armitage said that IBM will ship Systems Director v 6.1 with every server. Initially however, the Systems Software Business Unit’s revenues will not appear as a separate line item but will be incorporated into IBM STG’s overall sales figures.
Analysis
IBM’s decision to launch the new Systems Software BU within STG has both short term tactical and long term strategic impact and implications for IBM and hardware customers. Most immediately, it will enable IBM to more comprehensively and cogently address the business and technology needs of its tens of thousands of enterprise customers who are deploying or plan to deploy, virtualization and cloud computing environments. Given that virtualization and cloud computing are two of the hottest emerging technologies, IBM’s move is an excellent one for the immediate, intermediate and long term.
Additionally, networks are growing in size, scope and complexity even as the economic downturn keeps budgets and resources tight. Organizations are more than ever seeking guidance from their vendors. And those vendors that deliver on promises and provide such guidance will reap the rewards of continuing and expanding opportunities. IBM has a proven track record of delivering leading edge technology and superior technical service and support. The latest ITIC survey data found that 77% of organizations rated IBM service and support “Excellent” or “Very Good.”
In order to fully realize the potential of this unit and deliver the hoped-for value to customers, Armitage and her team will have to work hard to carve an identity for Systems Software . IBM is certainly providing its installed base and potential customer base with added value by shipping Systems Director v 6.1 loaded onto every server. However, the product must be accompanied by a strong marketing plan as well as the appropriate accompanying documentation and training materials to assist cash strapped and resource-constrained IT departments in unlocking and maximizing the potential of this software tool. It is crucial for STG and the Systems Software BU to rise to this challenge and distinguish the new unit within the next six-to-nine months as organizations begin to earmark their 2010 corporate expenditures.