Businesses in the UK will increasingly turn to virtualisation technologies in order to help them overcome their operational and capital expenditure challenges in the next 12 months.

So predicted a survey from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) carried out last month of 161 of its channel partners in the United Kingdom. The UK partners were asked for their view of the next 12 months ahead, and what are the biggest business challenges facing their customers in the next year.

There is little doubt that the economic downturn is creating a large headache for IT managers today. Indeed, the survey found that 80 percent of partners believed that operational costs will be the biggest challenge due to the recession, and 78 percent saw capital costs creating obstacles for customers.

But what was noticeable is that a staggering majority (87 percent) of channel respondents said that virtualisation would be the technology solution that customers will be investing in, as UK businesses view this technology as key to surviving in these tough economic times.

Cost control has also emerged as a key issue facing today's IT management teams, with 83 percent predicting that reducing operational cost will be a key issue facing their customers. Three quarters (75 percent) also said businesses face the challenge of having to optimise their existing IT infrastructure, in a clear indication that today's IT managers are being asked to do more with less.

Somewhat predictably, businesses are increasingly looking to "sweat" their IT assets to meet these challenges, with 35 percent of partners predicting that businesses will look to increase the utilisation of their storage infrastructures as they attempt to ensure optimum use of their IT infrastructure in tighter times.

"It is about cost savings at the moment," said Harvey Smith, regional sales director for UK & Ireland channel at HDS. "The survey came about because we wanted to see what the partners felt about the market, and the concern seems to be about capex expenditure and keeping costs under control."

"The issues surrounding server virtuslisation are well understood," Smith told Techworld. "But we are seeing increasing numbers adopting storage virtualisation, in order to make their assets last longer. Virtualisation allows people to put off buying new storage assets."

"With server virtualisation, it is about making one look like many, whereas it is the opposite with storage virtualisation as it is about making many storage systems look like one, with a common management interface. Virtualisation allows organisations to move say a three old year storage system and make it a lower tier of storage, such as tier two storage or tier three storage."

Finally, it seems that the channel thinks the 12 months is going to be tough for IT suppliers in general. 37 percent admitted it will be challenging for customers to continue to invest in IT, and over a quarter (27 percent) said that it will be more difficult to find new customers.

And it seems that being green is not high up on IT managers agendas either at the moment, as only 16 percent thought that reducing the environmental footprint was a key IT issue.