The world is currently going through an explosion of data. Demand for data centers is also huge and continues to experience new highs. A recent report by JLL, states that India’s colocation data center market is expected to double by 2023. There are several other tailwinds such as a new data center policy by the Government and approval of the draft Personal Data Protection bill in the Parliament.
While the demand for data centers is set to explode, the industry needs people with the right skillsets if it hopes to deliver on the huge growth. The modern data center, for example, needs cloud architects, who are responsible for planning, designing, developing the framework or architecture for migrating applications in the cloud. Typically, cloud architects have excellent technical knowledge of architectural principles in addition to skills that encompass software development and databases along with knowledge of Devops, networking and enterprise security. Similarly, organizations need people who have knowledge of cloud configuration management tools, databases, automation tools and enterprise security. There is also a significant need for people who have the adequate skills in cloud, load balancing, network engineering, security and emerging technologies such as AI. Additionally, data centers require certified personnel in facilities management and project management.
In one of the Uptime Institute’s recent reports, titled ‘The people challenge: Global data center staffing forecast 2021-2025’, the firm highlighted that global data center staff requirements were forecast to grow globally from about 2.0 million full-time employee equivalents in 2019 to nearly 2.3 million in 2025. Clearly, the industry will need more technical staff if it aspires to continue on its high growth trajectory. The Uptime Institute’s research also states that more than 325,000 net new FTE equivalent positions will be needed between 2019 and 2025 globally in the data center industry.
What can be done?
First and foremost, enterprises must work closely with industry and government associations to create the right programs that can train people with the adequate skillsets. Universities must also be encouraged to collaborate with the industry to create an appropriate syllabus and curriculum that can help in augmenting and training young talent. For example, the industry today requires skilled engineers with technical skills related to cloud and automation. As the industry matures and becomes more advanced, the focus has to be on upskilling and on training people with knowledge of emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning. It is high time that the government and private institutions in collaboration with international institutions try to address this rising skill gap. The shortage in data center skill sets can also be addressed by encouraging more women to join the industry. Currently, the percentage of women employed in the industry is significantly less. Internally, within the company, training programs have to be designed appropriately to enable employees’ upskill themselves. This will also motivate and encourage employees to stay back within their own organizations.
Wherever possible, organizations must look at automating data center tasks. Today, technology has advanced to a level where many of the common data center functions can be automated. This is also crucial for ensuring the desired quality. In Uptime Institute’s annual Global Data Center Survey which was released in 2021, the institute highlighted that 69% of data center owners and operators reported experiencing some form of outage in the past three years. While there are many technical reasons for outages, one of the most common reason for outages is caused to human errors. Automation can help in addressing these issues to a large extent. Automation tools can help organizations enterprises reduce or eliminate the need for human interventions in data center equipment management.
Organizations can also consider outsourcing their requirements to specialist service providers or Managed Service Providers (MSPs). By taking the outsourcing route, enterprises are no longer challenged by the data center skills shortage issue. Instead, they gain access to a skilled team with extensive expertise and experience of cloud technologies at a much lower price point. Due to the nature of their work and the infrastructure deployed, MSPs are best placed to attract the best data center talent. Most MSPs promise a good career and exposure to the latest technology trends equipped with best available infrastructure. MSPs also can retain talent in a far better manner as they can give them periodic training according to the latest available market trends. MSPs score over traditional in-house teams as they have the required trained manpower and skillsets to monitor the latest trends. A MSP with a global footprint can also give you continued infrastructure support or information protection for an organization’s infrastructure assets across the globe. Organizations can also look at MSPs for addressing specific skill related gaps in their data center team. For example, this could include skills like cloud configuration, DevOps, database security, SIEM expertise etc.
As digital initiatives accelerate, data centers will continue to be in huge demand. It is imperative for the industry and organizations to take necessary steps to reduce the gap. This is also imperative if we want to continue to reap the benefits of digital transformation initiatives in the future.
The article has been written by Vimal Kaw, Head, Data Center Services, NTT Ltd. In India