More IT managers plan to spend less, Oracle struggles with users, 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 due to a 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 from which vendors they were most likely to switch. 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." For IBM , 36% said it would be hard, 23% said it would be easy and 41% said somewhat difficult. For HP , 41% said it would be hard, 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 InfoPro, which also conducted hour-long interviews with the participants. Respondents said EMC or Hitachi Data Systems would be the most likely candidates to replace their IBM equipment, Coulter said, adding 29% of IBM customers surveyed said they're planning to spend less this year than in 2009, he said.

"From narratives we read from interviewees, it's mainly about their storage," said Marco Coulter, managing director of TheInfoPro's storage and cloud sectors.

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

Five EMC products were listed as among the "most exciting" as was the company itself by the Fortune 1000 respondents. EMC was rated second most exciting by mid-sized enterprises, with NetApp as first. Many of EMC's customers said they plan to spend more than $25 million with the company this year, InfoPro 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 their products in 2010, compared with 28% of Symantec's customers.

"They're just sitting there taking away from Symantec. I think there's a lot of frustration with Symantec," he 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 for 2011. For 2010, 30% of respondents said they plan to cut spending on storage, while 42% they expect to increase it.

"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."

For the first time, a category of spending titled "Just keeping the lights on" reached the number 10 spot in the "new initiatives" category in TheInfoPro's survey.

The respondents, 165 of whom worked for Fortune 1000 companies and 113 for mid-sized enterprises, said that dealing with capacity growth was the number one pain point, followed by a lack of proper forecasting and reporting tools.

Many of the IT managers indicated that using thin provisioning, which allocates 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 deduplication, Coulter said.

Coulter was quick to point out that primary deduplication, however, 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 deduplicated 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 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.