Microsoft: Bad economy forces adjustments in IT spending

Virtualization one of the technologies expected to see increase

The downturn in the economy is affecting the role and spending strategies of IT organizations, according to a Harris Interactive survey commissioned by Microsoft.

The study, announced on Tuesday, polled the opinions of 1,200 IT professionals in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Roughly 300 survey participants were polled in each country for the study.

Overall, about half (55 percent) of the respondents said that the economy had "changed the role of IT in their organization."

Respondents expected to spend 37 percent of their IT budgets on innovation vs. maintaining current systems. About half (48 percent) have kept their focus on "driving business efficiency." Cost cutting turned out to be less of a concern among the respondents, with just 30 percent saying that spending reductions were their main focus.  

Security continues to sap IT pro energies. The majority (73 percent) of respondents said that "protecting customer and company data" is the main concern for IT decision-makers over the next "one to three years."

"We found that customers are really telling us right now that security is way too hard and costly for their IT shops," said Bob Kelly, Microsoft's corporate vice president of infrastructure server marketing, in a conference call on Tuesday. He added that more that half of IT pros said the focus should be on meeting business goals rather than defending the network against attacks.

Those IT pros with money to spend on infrastructure described their priorities in the survey. Two thirds planned to purchase at least one of the following technologies: "virtualization, security, systems management and cloud computing," according to Microsoft's announcement of the survey.

The survey seemed yet another confirmation of the effects of a generally grim economy. However, Kelly said that IT organizations are generally falling into "two buckets," according to Microsoft's view. One side has retrenched and is holding on. The other is using this economic downturn as a strategic opportunity to move their businesses forward, Kelly asserted.

He cited virtualization as one example of this kind of innovation.

"There is an increased focus on things like virtualization as a way to create not only cost reduction but actually modernize their IT," Kelly said. "This is again an example where cost reduction can actually be real innovation."

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive "between April 9 and May 5, 2009." Results are posted at Microsoft's core infrastructure optimization page here.

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