Why your data center skills need an upgrade

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I had the pleasure of speaking with Andrew Hillier, the CTO and Co-Founder of CiRBA, a leader in data center based capacity transformation and control software. We discussed how technical advances in data center management are transforming the types of skills that are needed by people working in a data center.

Mr. Hillier explained that historically, data centers have been run using a combination of:
• Local corporate knowledge - The technical equivalent of knowing where the issues historically tend to be and where the conceptual bodies are buried
• Device specific analytics - Describing the technical health and throughput of a specific physical device
• Process analytics - Describing how well specific process or technical function was performing, such as data communication or CPU utilization

He went on to say that technologies now exist to allow those managing data centers to more easily look at them as a whole, rather than, as a sum of its parts. In essence, it can be managed more as a single entity than as a collection of connected components. This capability allows oversight to be more of a science, based on data, and a little less of an art, based more on segmented analytics and gut feeling. This is particularly true in organizations moving their computing capacity from a traditional computing environment to a virtual and private cloud type infrastructure.

Given this backdrop, I then asked Mr. Hillier what effect these technical advances would have on those working to manage these environments. His thoughts were as follows:

Tools Knowledge: As data centers become more centrally controlled through software, people will have to gain an understanding and working knowledge of these new monitoring, control and analytics tools.

Industry Knowledge: As the quality and quantity of these tools continues to accelerate, those making hardware and software purchasing decisions have many more choices. Certainly having multiple products to choose from has its advantages, but it brings with it the risk of unknowingly selecting products that lock you into a specific long term technical solution which could be very difficult and expensive to unwind.

Broad Technical Understanding: Certainly people will continue to have a particular technical specialty, but this more centralized and integrated approach to data center management brings with it the need to have a deeper understanding of other technicalities. For example, people working to manage virtualized hardware will have to have a deeper understanding of data communications, CPU utilization, and capacity planning.

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