IT managers are hoping that moves to expand the use of virtual technologies and so-called green products can help them better cope with decreasing IT budgets.

The budget crunch is by far the top challenge facing IT storage managers today, at least according to half of the 70 attendees who responded to a poll at the Storage Networking World (SNW) conference here last week. A total of about 665 IT managers attended the conference, which was run jointly by Computerworld and the Storage Networking Industry Association.

Dave Burhop, CIO at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, said the agency expects that deploying virtualisation technology from VMware will let it reduce its server total from 3,000 to 1,000, significantly cutting its power needs.

The agency also cut the number of contractors it uses and asked its IT workers to "suck it up" and work 12-hour days to offset a 3 percent IT budget cut, Burhop added.

Herbalife International of America has already rolled out VMware software to its 700 servers, said M. Andy Hansen, principal engineer for IT and server operations. The company's 2009 IT budget is flat.

The maker of weight-loss products is now evaluating virtualisation tools that could be used on its older storage systems and its new EMC Symmetrix and Clariion arrays.

"We're doing a lot of virtualisation, and I know we're going to have a positive power impact because of that," Hansen said.

Of the 91 SNW attendees who responded to another poll question, 41 percent said they have started or completed storage virtualisation projects, while 25 percent said they expect to begin substantial rollouts of the technology over the next year.

Green computing initiatives also figure prominently in cost-savings plans, according to SNW polls. A quarter of 91 attendees said they plan to roll out an energy-saving project this year, while 30 percent said they have already started such initiatives.

Companies are also looking beyond technology and personnel to cut IT costs. For example, Herbalife is saving $70,000 annually just by eliminating the purchase of Styrofoam coffee cups for IT workers, said Hansen.