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This article is part of our Essential Guide: IT Priorities survey predicts 2018 IT strategy for tech pros

Cloud, app dev highlight IT budget management priorities for 2018

TechTarget's exclusive 2018 IT Priorities survey sheds some light on IT budget management plans for the data center, cloud projects and hybrid technologies.

IT managers will have a little more cash in the kitty this year as they cruise the aisles shopping for data center...

gear: Nearly half (49.6%) of IT professionals responding to our TechTarget 2018 IT Priorities survey indicated that they expected bigger budgets for the coming year.

It's always good news to have more money to play with for IT budget management, but those IT managers will still have to deal with capacity and performance demands that threaten to outstrip their budgetary gains. Big data analytics, internet of things (IoT) applications, and compliance with old regulations and new ones like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), combined with the propensity to save every last bit and byte, will challenge the purchasing prowess of IT brass.

IT budgets continue to rise

For the last three years, our surveys have shown more of the represented shops enjoyed burgeoning budgets. Average increases have held fairly steady, too, with 2018's projected increase of 9.5% comparable to those indicated last year (10.0%) and for 2016 (9.4%). That's pretty good news for half of the data centers, but it also means an equal number are destined to deal with frozen budgets or, even worse, declining ones.

Twenty-one percent of respondents anticipated having no more or no less to spend in 2018 compared to 2017, while an unfortunate 8% expected to have 4.2% less to spend than they did last year. Twenty-one percent weren't sure or didn't know how their companies' IT budgets would change in 2018.

Expected changes in IT budgets over three years

Company size isn't much of a factor, as half of small, midsize and larger companies all noted their budgets were going up. The average increase was roughly equivalent, as well:

  • Small companies (less than $100 million revenue): 9.7%
  • Midsize ($100 million to $1 billion): 8.9%
  • Large (more than $1 billion): 9.6%

Where IT will spend

Although demands on IT budget management tend to broadly span most data center disciplines, our respondents have some specific areas where they expect to concentrate at least some of their spending.

The biggest projected spend for all sizes of companies would go to investments in cloud services. Of course, cloud services is a very broad term that could include just about any IT technology or process, so it's not surprising this category should account for such a large chunk of IT budget change. Sixty-one percent of large companies expect to open their wallets for cloud services; nearly as many midsize companies (55%) intend to follow suit, with almost half (49%) of smaller companies looking to the cloud, too.

Other notable areas where companies of all sizes plan to increase their spending include backup and disaster recovery (33%), maintenance and technical support (31%) and software (31%).

Increasing spending for some tech typically means cutting back in other areas.

Servers and storage are basic fare provided by cloud services. So, with cloud spending on the rise, many shops will cut back on acquiring those types of hardware for their on-premises operations.

Servers and storage are basic fare provided by cloud services. So, with cloud spending on the rise, many shops will cut back on acquiring those types of hardware for their on-premises operations. Given the proliferation of both of these hardware classes -- respondents indicated an average of 1.5 PB of storage capacity, and 37% noted that they currently have 1,000 or more bare-metal or virtual servers -- it's not a shock that 38% will cut back on server purchases and 32% expect to buy less storage.

Twenty percent of companies cited IT automation as a broad initiative for 2018, which may be why they also expect to decrease budgets for staff (33%) and consulting services (32%).

Other notable broad initiatives that our respondents have on their 2018 to-do lists include big data analytics at 27% and upgrading network technologies at 24%. Nipping at the heels of IT automation are building out hybrid IT-- integrating cloud and on-premises services -- and CRM, both selected by 19% of respondents.

A couple of hot-button techs -- DevOps and IoT -- were further down the initiatives list when it comes to IT budget management, but not by much, as both polled at 17%. Compliance and legal discovery (14%) ranked No. 10 on the list, but it's likely to climb with May's GDPR deadline.

Top 10 broad initiatives to pursue in 2018

Command and control

One of the IT themes emerging from this year's survey is the preeminence of management applications that are in many companies' plans. When you consider that most companies are coping with more data than ever, new directives to derive some value from that data cause a significant upheaval of traditional data center processes and practices. IT managers are going to need help managing these processes, and the priorities they expressed via our survey indicate those applications will be at the top of a lot of companies' shopping lists.

The battle to get a better handle on data and processes is being fought on many fronts. At the data center level, 43% of respondents said they're eyeing cloud management tools, putting it at the top of the data center management project list. And other cloud-related administrative tasks figured prominently in plans, with 31% expecting to deploy cloud monitoring tools, 24% considering cloud automation apps and another 21% with designs on cloud orchestration deployments.

Clearly, our survey suggests that system, data and process management will play a prominent role in 2018, particularly in cloud and hybrid cloud environments.

Taming cloud services is only part of the management picture. On-premises hardware is likely to get some attention, as well, as 39% noted that system management -- maintaining hardware resources -- was in the cards for 2018. The same percentage -- 39% -- gave a thumbs-up to system monitoring tools that can track and analyze hardware status and performance.

Areas will budgets will increase or decrease

With tons of data queuing up for big data analysis and even more accumulating from IoT sensors, storage isn't immune from the need for greater management. When asked to rate their top primary storage initiatives for 2018, data management topped the list (21%), as it did in last year's survey.

The management theme carries through to security, where vulnerability management (27%) and identity and access management (26%) ranked high on the list of planned security deployments.

And the top networking initiative for 2018? You guessed it: At 27%, network management and monitoring topped the list.

IT managers are even looking to rein in emerging technologies. Twenty-one percent said container management would be a priority this year, up from 12% in 2017 and a mere 5% in 2016.

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