Data Center Jobs Demand New Skills

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Tech pros willing to keep pace with the data sector’s evolving technology and practices can find good jobs in data centers—even as many of those facilities strip away headcount and automate more and more practices.

Specialists in cloud, automation, DevOps and virtualization have the best opportunities for landing those new jobs. Those specialists should have the ability to look at the data center in a holistic manner, rather than focusing on individual components such as servers or networks.

“A lot of this is being driven by a shift in cloud technology,” said Rich Miller, editor of Data Center Frontier, an online publication that tracks online infrastructure developments.

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In addition to cloud-driven organizations such Facebook and Google, organizations that have bought into the advantages of cloud technology are also maintaining their own data centers. And, Miller noted, many companies have chosen to pursue a hybrid model, keeping certain operations in-house while exporting others to the cloud; that’s spiked demand for the large data center players that sell capacity, such as Amazon.

Miller sees an “active hiring environment for cloud and service providers,” with “a lot of opportunities in the enterprise for developers who can work with established technologies like Oracle and IBM.” This will be a long-term need, he added, since cloud providers realize that enterprises rely on these technologies and have developed ways to make legacy environments more cloud-friendly: “That’s going to be a key focus going forward.”

Coding Required

As a result of these trends, flexibility and coding skills have become more attractive to data center employers. “We have to accommodate anything the customer brings,” observed Scott P. Kantner, chief technology officer of service provider DSS, based in Wyomissing, Pa. That means the IT side of data-center operations is becoming increasingly software-defined.

Because companies rely more on virtual services and buy less hardware for their facilities, “the lines are becoming blurred,” Kantner added. “The hardware guy needs to know Linux, and the software guy needs to know engineering.”

DevOps is taking on increasing importance, too. “You want to understand what the code is going to do once it’s deployed,” Miller said. Indeed, coding skills on a resume can help a job candidate lock down that prime data-center gig.

Assembling an Infrastructure

Ken Spear, a senior product marketing manager at Cisco, calls the transition from traditional applications to DevOps and cloud apps “bimodal IT.” It’s a world where solutions are developed and deployed very rapidly, and are constantly evolving. “It’s just going to get faster,” he said, “and there’ll be a lot of ripple effects on what careers will look like in the future.”

Cisco has been looking at ways to provide aspects of data center services as predefined components, which it calls “Virtual Application Container Services” or “VACS.” The idea is to compile tools that can automatically handle aspects of data center configuration—like security, for example—by writing the solutions into the VACS code. “The tool is doing intelligent automation of stuff you used to need a network admin for,” Spear explained. “The code contains a lot of the intelligence and smarts needed to set up and run the infrastructure.”

Isn’t that the kind of thing that could squash job opportunities? Spear says no. Instead, he sees it as another example of the way data center roles are changing to encompass what a modern facility does, with positions that focus more on strategic things like cloud architecture instead of, say, crafting and managing individual components.

Joe Iwanowski, DSS’s director of Managed Services, sees one more ability as key for professionals working at data centers: soft skills. These people work regularly with customers, he points out, right up to the CEO level. “They’re going to be dealing with a lot of different people,” he said, “and they have to know how to do it.”

Image Credit: OliverSved/Shutterstock.com

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