Data Center & Infrastructure Report

Priorities and the Outlook for 2021


Responding to new challenges and preparing for what’s around the corner while protecting and improving the performance of data centers and infrastructure is a constant for IT teams. 2021 plans and projections are still being shaped by the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, IT has found new avenues to keep organizations operational and growing with resources and agility.

Service Express surveyed IT professionals nationwide for their insights into their current and future actions on a variety of topics from IT budgets to workload deployments. We have compiled the following responses and data to provide helpful insight into how the IT industry is taking action today and planning for the future.

Survey Objectives

The following research is based on the annual Service Express Data Center & Infrastructure Survey. Results were gathered between May and October 2020 from over 500 IT professionals in the US.


Examine the current outlook on strategic planning for data center infrastructure


Identify the top priorities and challenges that IT professionals will encounter in the next 12-month cycle


Share insights into workload deployment and cost reduction methods

Meet Todd & Jake

Todd Piper - CIO, Service Express

Todd drives the development and execution of IT strategy, ensuring alignment with overall business objectives and direction for design, development, operation, security and support of IT systems and business applications. He is also an Experts Panel member on the Forbes Technology Council.

Jake Blough - CTO, Service Express

Jake leads research and development for new products, services and data science, provides technical analysis for M&A projects and sets the technical direction for Service Express. He is a frequent speaker on data center trends and advises our customers on their infrastructure strategy.

Key Findings

Strengthening security & privacy

The top priority for today’s IT professionals


The most influential driver affecting IT decision-makers

Budget & cost

The primary challenge for IT professionals


The top cost reduction method
in 2020

Disaster recovery & business continuity

The most important driver behind off-premises deployment

High cost of service

The most significant hardware maintenance challenge

Top Priorities

The Focus in the Data Center

Security will always lead or stay near the top of the IT priority list. There is a constant race to safeguard systems, data, and employees from attacks. To protect these critical assets, businesses need to keep pace with their defense and equip themselves with a robust security stack that includes a variety of platform layers to help keep the bad actors out.

Top Priority by Organization Revenue

$1 billion+:
Reducing IT costs & improving inefficiencies

$501m – $1b:
Strengthening security & privacy

$51 – $500 million:
Strengthening security & privacy

$250k – $50m:
Strengthening security & privacy

Participants identified their top three priorities for the next 12 months.

  • Strengthening security & privacy 48% 48%
  • Reducing IT costs & improving inefficiencies 45% 45%
  • Improving internal processes & collaboration 38% 38%
  • Developing IT team members 27% 27%
  • Upgrading network infrastructure 24% 24%
  • Understanding & implementing emerging technologies 24% 24%
  • Upgrading server infrastructure 24% 24%
  • Upgrading storage infrastructure 17% 17%
  • Optimizing hybrid cloud infrastructure 16% 16%
  • Reducing technical debt 14% 14%
  • Implementation of hybrid cloud 12% 12%

“Despite gains in security technology, threats evolve to find new ways to cause damage by stealing data, lowering productivity and locking company information. To limit risk, it is absolutely essential to focus on strengthening the human firewall. This is even more true with the massive shift to remote work due to COVID-19. Establishing employee security education programs and protocols, plus communicating security measures on a regular basis are effective in reducing individual-caused security issues and closing the window on breaches.”

Top Challenges

What IT Is Facing

Budget limitations and cost reductions are not new to the world of IT. Budgets are rarely large enough to meet all the required technology and business demands. To counter limited CapEx and OpEx dollars, CIOs must find the means to balance business priorities with the realities of revenues, economic outlook and technological advances.

In response to COVID-19, challenges increased and business objectives shifted rapidly. Spending was redirected to support the immediate needs of transitioning to a remote workforce and managing supply chain disruptions. Finding additional success with new technology adoption and the promise of vaccination options, companies are beginning to adjust their budgets in anticipation of better news. 2021 IT spending appears ready to rebound according to our COVID-19 IT Response & Recovery Report.

Top Challenges by Organization Revenue

$1 billion+:
New technology
and / or adoption

$501m – $1b:
Budget & cost reductions

$51 – $500 million:
Budget & cost reductions

$250k – $50m:
Budget & cost reductions

Participants selected the top three challenges they anticipated facing in the next 12 months.

  • Budget & cost reductions 72% 72%
  • New technology and / or adoption 54% 54%
  • Security 54% 54%
  • Talent & workforce 40% 40%
  • Privacy & data compliance 28% 28%
  • Optimizing OpEx vs. CapEx 15% 15%
  • Implementation of hybrid cloud 14% 14%
  • Vendor relationship management 12% 12%


In the Data Center

IT continues to use on-prem data centers for a majority of workload needs. Consolidation of footprint, especially in systems housed in a colocation environment, offers flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

With a keen eye toward decreasing power consumption, in part due to the goal of reducing carbon emissions and avoiding unpredictable energy expenses, there is a gradual migration to both on and off-prem options: private and public cloud.

Top workload
deployment method


On-premises data center

Participants allocated the percentage of workload in their current environment.

“We are seeing more and more of our early adopter enterprise customers beginning to build flexible private cloud architectures in-house as a way to service multiple lines of the business without the complexity and cost of a move to public cloud.”


Responding to Demands

Disaster recovery is a top
off-prem driver as organizations are continually pushed to deal with more uncertain global environments.
COVID-19 spotlights these ongoing vulnerabilities and need for control, as well as the challenges to international travel, supply chain lockdowns and remote work.

What do IT professionals prioritize when deciding to deploy off-prem?
Participants selected drivers from a list that included:

  • Disaster recovery / business continuity 70% 70%
  • Lower capital cost 50% 50%
  • Improved security 43% 43%
  • Rapid capacity expansion 35% 35%
  • Consolidation 33% 33%
  • Limited staffing capabilities 25% 25%
  • Application 24% 24%

Organizations struggled to find the most effective response to 2020’s downward revenues, especially companies in the retail and hospitality sectors. In many cases, infrastructure teams implemented new solutions and completed projects ahead of schedule. To reduce CapEx exposure and launch products faster in light of global supply chain issues, IT leaders moved workloads to private or public clouds.

Security is always on the radar and the focus needs to include not just physical protections. Network security is a large driver for moves to colocation and private cloud environments. Enterprise companies are also becoming more savvy about public cloud security by ensuring that IT teams have the final say on setup and security for business units that want to independently spin up a public cloud resource.

Decision Drivers

Evaluating Data Center Support

There is an increasing business argument for IT to pivot from the traditional OEM hardware model, with its high post-warranty support expenses and premature refresh cycles, to an alternative solution. Support costs can be reduced by half or more by using third-party maintenance (TPM). Lower long-term support spend provides more control of equipment life cycles and helps meet budget demands. Research shows that equipment longevity is compatible with performance. Many TPM companies also rate highly for service responsiveness and a positive customer experience.

Participants selected their top three decision drivers when considering their organization’s IT infrastructure support.

  • Price 69% 69%
  • Response time to issue 64% 64%
  • Customer experience 58% 58%
  • System monitoring & alerting 34% 34%
  • Ease of placing a service call 32% 32%
  • Flexible service agreement 16% 16%
  • Multivendor support 16% 16%

Top Decision Drivers by Organization Revenue

$1 billion+:

$501m – $1b:

$51 – $500 million:
Response time
to issue and Price

$250k – $50m:

“During annual budget time and even at more frequent intervals, IT leaders evaluate their infrastructure strategy to adjust and optimize the cost of maintaining uptime. How does support impact overall productivity? What steps are taken to control costs and still meet business goals? Whether the challenge is to reduce CapEx (warranty support bundled in new equipment purchases) or OpEx (post-warranty and long-term support), the most effective solutions are a combination of OEM and alternative support options.”


How IT Is Saving

IT professionals are beginning to take a harder look at the hype of mass migration to the cloud. In reality, more organizations are implementing a hybrid approach.

Leveraging a longer useful equipment life is a straightforward and reliable means to increase ROI with the opportunity to significantly lower maintenance costs.

Moving from on-prem to the cloud quickly provides scalability options for key applications and business activities. However, this transition does not always result in cost reductions.

Larger organizations are focusing more on consolidation because it does not make sense to run everything in the cloud. Costs and security control play a decisive role in how well cloud options deliver on expectations. Consolidation delivers improved OpEx and CapEx savings. In addition, repurposed equipment can also be leveraged at edge computing sites.

Participants indicated what cost reduction tools they are implementing, as well as what shifts could take place in 2021.

Top cost reduction method




The Need for Improvement

IT professionals contend with maintenance challenges that stem from high costs and service quality.

High Cost of Service
OEM post-warranty costs remain painfully high and show no signs of abating.

Administrative Complexity / Delays
It’s the age-old story of phone trees, tiresome penalties and lack of flexibility. In response, IT teams are increasingly exploring alternative support options, including third-party maintenance.

Inconsistent System Monitoring Quality
Automating and centralizing manual processes for hardware maintenance frees up valuable time and effort for system admins to focus on strategic priorities.

Participants identified the challenges faced when working with their current maintenance provider(s).

  • High cost of service 56% 56%
  • Administrative complexity / delays 45% 45%
  • Inconsistent system monitoring quality 36% 36%
  • Parts delays 30% 30%
  • Pressure to buy new hardware 29% 29%
  • Slow response to service needs 28% 28%
  • Lack of skill / knowledge of service 27% 27%
  • Limited portal functionality 18% 18%
  • Difficulties placing service calls 17% 17%

“No matter the size of the organization, the high cost of hardware maintenance continues to impose obstacles within every IT budget. By leveraging a blend of OEM and third-party maintenance (TPM), organizations can realize immediate OpEx savings. In turn, this hybrid approach delivers CapEx savings, as well as extends hardware refresh cycles, allowing IT teams to focus on more strategic initiatives.”


Powering the Data Center

Server Manufacturers Used by Respondents

  • Dell 39% 39%
  • Cisco 22% 22%
  • HPE 20% 20%
  • IBM 9% 9%
  • Lenovo 4% 4%
  • Supermicro 3% 3%
  • Oracle 2% 2%
  • Fujitsu 0.5% 0.5%

There have been significant gains in the adoption of hyperconverged appliances and composable infrastructures, led by Dell EMC’s VxRail and HPE’s Synergy product lines. These products are very popular in data centers that are building out internal private clouds.

Storage Equipment Used by Respondents

  • Dell EMC 37% 37%
  • HPE 18% 18%
  • NetApp 14% 14%
  • IBM 11% 11%
  • Hitachi 4% 4%
  • Oracle 3% 3%
  • Supermicro 2% 2%

Adoption of all-flash arrays are starting to accelerate as the storage capacity of flash devices increase and the price trends lower. While Pure Storage is making gains in this space, it still does not hold the types of market share enjoyed by the larger players.

Network Devices Used by Respondents

  • Cisco 46% 46%
  • Dell 11% 11%
  • Juniper 11% 11%
  • HPE 11% 11%
  • Brocade 7% 7%
  • IBM 3% 3%
  • Arista 2% 2%

Cisco is still far and away the largest player in the networking space, but there is a continual erosion of market share to the smaller players that are betting big on OpenStack and SDN strategies.

2020 was a challenging year–presenting a combination of uncertainty and economic disruption of which IT leaders have not faced in decades. The scope and sustained impact of the pandemic forced organizations to pivot rapidly to remote work, take action to increase security, optimize budgets and implement cost saving initiatives.


Security demands have increased as did IT’s focus on addressing new ways to prevent cyberattacks. Implementing employee phishing training and best practices needs to be central to all CISO’s security strategies.

Budget & Cost

Even as 2021 IT budgets start to expand, CIO’s will continue to focus on cost saving initiatives to help fund large scale strategic solutions.

Hybrid Data Center Hardware Maintenance

IT leaders are taking a hybrid approach to their hardware maintenance strategy. By leveraging a blend of OEM and third-party maintenance (TPM), organizations can realize immediate OpEx savings. In turn, this hybrid approach delivers CapEx savings, helping to extend hardware refresh cycles and allowing IT teams to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Moving forward, 2021 will be a year of accelerated digital transformation. The effects of COVID-19 have shown organizations the value of digitizing key processes, improving the customer experience and leveraging technology to increase revenue and customer success.



Five-hundred and three participants took part in the Data Center & Infrastructure Survey conducted by Service Express from May to October 2020.

Participants by Responsibility

31% of Participants:
Responsible for implementing and maintaining an organization’s data center and technological infrastructure.

25% of Participants:
Responsible for the upkeep, configuration
and reliable operation of an organization’s
computer systems.

22% of Participants:
Oversee the information technology strategy for an organization.

22% of Participants:
Administrative and / or supervisory authority of IT in an organization.

Participants by Industry

  • Professional, scientific & technical services 18% 18%
  • Educational services 16% 16%
  • Healthcare & social assistance 14% 14%
  • Manufacturing 13% 13%
  • Finance & insurance 9% 9%
  • Information 7% 7%
  • Wholesale trade 4% 4%
  • Retail Trade 3% 3%
  • Public administration 3% 3%

Service Express

The leader in providing third-party maintenance (TPM), Service Express specializes in onsite data center support for server, storage and network equipment to help IT teams control costs and optimize infrastructure strategy. Customers can manage, monitor and automate support with ExpressConnect®. Founded in 1993, Service Express maintains multivendor data center equipment for healthcare, manufacturing, education, finance, government, technology and other Fortune 500 companies worldwide.

In addition to post-warranty maintenance, Service Express offers hardware system and sales solutions, OS support, IT asset disposition and data center relocations.

How Can We Help?

Learn more about expert data center maintenance solutions.

Additional Resources

EOL & EOSL Database >

Search and find upcoming EOL or EOSL dates on hardware

VIDEO: What is Third-Party Maintenance? >

How is third-party data center maintenance different than OEM support?

ExpressConnect® Monitoring >

Automated 24/7 hardware support solution for your data center

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