November 2, 2010 – Companies plan to put more money into virtualization and consolidation with data centers in 2011, with mature markets like the U.S. and U.K. leading the way, according to a new survey from Gartner.

Also, in a possible sign of changing philosophies or economic factors, more companies are expected to implement long-term strategic plans instead of project-by-project silos, according to the Gartner’s survey of more than 1,000 companies across industries and around the world for its review of challenges and investments for next year.

Not surprisingly, nearly half of respondents put data growth as the primary challenge, followed by system performance and scalability (37 percent) and network congestion and connectivity architecture (36 percent).

To deal with those challenges, data center officials pegged server virtualization as the top investment plan for 2011, with 67 percent of respondents listing it as their main investment, according to Gartner’s survey. However, when respondents were separated into national segments, 81 percent of mature markets like the U.S., U.K., Germany and Australia are putting money toward virtualization, compared to only 53 percent in emerging countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Application consolidation or reduction (56 percent), blade servers (51 percent) and unified communications (50 percent) followed virtualization in overall investment planning, according to the survey, in which officials could include multiple categories in answers.

Naveen Mishra, principal analyst on data center transformation with Gartner, says server virtualization and cloud computing and services will increase in attention and investment from organizations and change the way they deal with data.

“Many large organizations have been struggling with the management of data, given the significant growth of unstructured data. As more and more businesses are getting dependent on the Internet, this will continue,” Mishra says.

In a long-range look, more organizations are looking to overarching plans for all of their data center needs rather than dealing with individual projects, which stood out to Gartner researchers. Fifty percent of respondents stated they had a strategic plan for the data center, including a project road map. One percent stated that they “don’t know.”

Mishra says that the increasing number of respondents with a strategic plan for data was surprising to researchers, as they expected “slightly conservative” numbers and more isolated projects. The survey noted that this could be good news for data center providers with big picture projects or a sign of more economic investment, though cautioned that it could also mean that a deeper definition and understanding of data strategy is in order.

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