Data centre convergence & changing job roles
March 31st, 2016
Why are we seeing rapid growth in converged/hyper-converged data centre infrastructure?
Data centre infrastructures had to converge, predominately due to the demand for cloud/hosted services. The global economic situation, skills shortages with the market and escalating salaries simply led to a mushroom of technologies to help those running those data centres capitalise on the demand – straightforward market dynamics really. Sure, it would’ve happened anyway but the global market and amount of competition in the space certainly sped up the process.
As we are still in the race to zero on costs, led by Amazon, Microsoft and the like, the technologies available will continue to reduce the requirement for the level of skills needed right now. We are pretty much moving back in time where a single vendor provided and often managed the core platform. For example, mainframe and minicomputer systems. It just makes business sense now. A black box delivering computers, storage and networking, rather than lots of different pieces together with string.
What impact is it having on those working within data centres?
Those starting their careers in data centres must understand the value that their knowledge will have in the long term, and how this can be maximised as businesses turn to automated processes. Fewer people are needed to run a data centre than say three years ago, due to automation and orchestration technologies. The level of integration and APIs between vendors is getting sharper, reducing the number of skilled personnel needed to run operations on a daily basis. These changes along with the rise of the public cloud, into the mainstream, means career considerations need to be made.
The worst thing that data centre workers can do is push back against the move to greater automation and integration. Particularly public cloud integration. With Amazon and Microsoft opening data centres in the UK, they will start to hoover more clients in. This creates opportunity with the areas for development focusing on hanging different platforms and providers together. Engineering if you like – moulding and adapting services between data centres, vendors and suppliers. This, in turn, will lead to increased security and compliance requirements, creating a demand for in-depth cloud security and compliance skills and experience. This is really going to be one area that comes to the fore over the next two to three years.
What’s the demand for those with the right skills?
Those with the skills and experience of hooking together (converging) numerous systems, providers and vendors are going to be in demand as data centres rush to protect their margin in a highly competitive market. This fact alone has to lead to real demand for those who understand both the commercial and technical reality along with the skills required to help protect the profit margin of a business. Taking it further, those who can package everything into a hyper-converged platform are also going to be in demand. However, this model still goes against the grain for some technical leads; they want some flexibility, rightly or wrongly. Over the coming years, this could change though as we really do get into utility computing for the masses.
What should the skills focus be?
Datacentre IT professionals have to look into the orchestration, automation and the associated hybrid-cloud platforms. The skills required will revolve around these areas, focusing on making operations leaner, more reliable and giving clients more options. Obviously, the solutions from the likes of Dell and Cisco’s FlexPod are pushing out and down in the various sizes and types of infrastructure.
Can universities help?
I don’t believe that universities are up to speed on the rapid-growth of the cloud and data centre markets. It’s difficult to do as the change is so rapid; the customer and supplier side, the global giants and small startups are driving this on all fronts. By the time a student comes out of university what they learnt at the beginning could be irrelevant. If however universities and apprenticeships teach systems analysis, software engineering, networking and core IT skills this will help those going into the field. Once you understand the concepts then these don’t change. No matter how fast the market runs, IT principles are IT principles.
We find that those coming from IT-related courses which cover computing, analysis and software engineering principles benefit at all levels of their career. As you grow and the market changes you always have a base knowledge to anchor back to. Everything coming into the market is based on the same principles, just with new and innovative approaches.
Robert Rutherford – CEO of QuoStar
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