The modern data center is constantly evolving to accommodate various types of new workloads. As businesses witness growth, the demand for running complex workloads at scale and pace is paramount in the new IT environment. This may require a complete revamp of the data center architecture or involve building more capabilities on top of the existing architecture – both underlining the need for new skillsets to achieve the objectives.
The task for data center administrators, today, go beyond maintaining and monitoring data center sites and ensuring 24/7 availability. Penetration of cloud services and 5G networks has catalysed a new wave of digital transformation; and building new skill sets is the need of the hour. The need to embrace emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and intelligent data analytics will redefine how organisations look at their data centers. Furthermore, the widespread adoption of as-a-service models and cloud computing among enterprises calls for specialised skills in the software domain.
Let’s look how these evolving dynamics will spur demand for new skills for data center of the future:
Cloud Architect: This is a new role that is in demand across data centers and major technology firms. The cloud is constantly evolving, and professionals with cloud architecture experience who have the required skills in planning, designing, developing and migrating applications in the cloud will be in high demand. Cloud architects have deep knowledge of architectural principles, and also have skills related to software development, third party integration, databases, along with Devops, networking and enterprise security. Cloud architects are also expected to have strong communication skills and have the ability to align the technology priorities with business imperatives.
Cloud Configuration Management: Hybrid IT is now a reality across industries as organisations embrace a hybrid environment due to the agility that it provides. In the future, this is set to become a bigger trend, as organizations embrace multiple clouds to cater to optimize different workloads. In this new hybrid environment, organizations will require people with the requisite skills to migrate data and applications between the cloud and on-premise platforms. In this new environment, a sought-after skill will be professionals with experience of working with configuration management tools. Cloud configuration management involves configuring hardware and software for the cloud (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS). There are many software tools available in the market for cloud configuration management, and data center managers will seek the help of professionals who are well equipped in software tools such as Chef, Puppet or SaltStack.
Edge Computing: As we move towards a hyper-connected world, billions of devices will be connected to the Internet, thereby bringing intelligence to the Edge in the form of Edge Computing. This will lead to the revamping of network architectures and how data is handled. As more and more edge computing deployments become reality, enterprises will seek intelligent and cost-efficient ways to collect data from IoT devices, analyse the data and then route it to a remote and on-premise data center. As edge computing blends different functions, data center managers will seek professionals, who have a mix of different skills such as networking, system design, database modelling and security. System design skills are critical as most edge devices have resource constraints, and hence, systems need to be designed to operate without performance degradation and be interoperable with other devices. Similarly, networking is another important component, as a network which is not optimized can affect the performance in a big way. Edge devices are known to exchange huge amounts of data and are always connected. Database specialists are required for designing database structures more efficiently so that data storage, distribution and analysis can be done efficiently. Edge devices are more prone to security risks, and security professionals will need to have the same levels of data protection features such as encryption and authentication.
Artificial Intelligence: Gartner predicts that more than 30 percent of data centers that fail to sufficiently prepare for AI will no longer be operationally or economically viable by 2020. Given this reality, it is imperative for data center managers to have people who have expertise of using AI to deliver more efficiency. While AI can certainly perform routine tasks such as patching security updates, taking backups or even updating systems, the task of designing algorithms and optimizing it to ensure better results is left to skilled professionals. This can include writing algorithms for ensuring optimum load distribution, scaling systems efficiently and automatically, and performance monitoring and troubleshooting.
Security: This is the most critical skillset, and will always be in high demand. Highly skilled information security specialists will always be required to help data centers protect themselves proactively against attacks. While currently, information security specialists are focused on detecting and acting against threats in the network, workloads or applications, in the future, they will focus on using automated tools to detect anomalies in the network, and use automated intelligence to proactively protect their firms. For example, the focus will change from SOC specialists who can detect threats now to professionals who can create algorithms or write scripts for automatically detecting attacks. Data center managers will also require the help of cybersecurity architects who can see the bigger picture, and create a centralized threat perception model, gained from looking at all the different threat vectors. In addition, new roles such as data privacy officers will also be required, who are well versed with legal matters and different regulatory requirements as needed to be compliant.
Having said this, data centers will no longer be used in their traditional forms; they will become more intelligent, automated and software-defined. As organisations look at modernising their data center environments, there will be a significant demand for the above skillsets. This will, undoubtedly, result in the transformation of how data centers are operated, managed and monitored. Skills around AI, ML, software-defined, cloud and intelligent edge will be instrumental for the data center of the future.
By Vimal Kaw, Associate Vice President,Products and Services – NTT-Netmagic