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The deepening data center skills crisis

Companies are forced to put projects on hold due to shortage of IT pros with the right skill sets

By , Network World
February 08, 2010 12:03 AM ET

Network World - With a state-of-the-art data center recently opened in Georgia, PricewaterhouseCoopers is on the prowl for a few good people. The challenge looms just about as large as the 80,000-square-foot building housing the IT infrastructure.

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PwC is looking for IT professionals to fill vacancies on its network operations, security and facilities staffs, for example. Some positions are suitable for those with just a bit of experience while others require a much richer IT background, says Rick Ancona, deputy U.S. CIO and CTO at PwC, a professional services firm with U.S. headquarters in New York.

"The problem is, not that many people out there right now are versed in the data center of today," he says.

By "data center of today," Ancona means a highly automated, dense and virtualized IT infrastructure that relies on the most advanced electrical and mechanical components for ultra power efficiency.

The modern data center demands that IT professionals understand multiple disciplines as well as the facilities infrastructure — and that's one of the big issues giving rise to the hiring difficulties.

Applicants flooding the resume pipeline don't have the exact right mix of expertise for the rapidly changing data center environment.

Virtualization vacuum

"One might think in today's economic climate with such high unemployment and what-not that we'd be able to find VMware, Cisco networking, EMC storage skill sets. But these are the people who are working, and we’re finding it more difficult than ever to hire appropriate resources," says Michael Bullock, founder and CEO of Transitional Data Services, a data center consulting firm.

Virtualization experts are especially hard to come by, Bullock adds. "It'd be awfully nice to find people available who are skilled in multiple disciplines, but it's hard enough finding anyone who knows how to work with virtual servers or storage alone," he says.

Data Center Resume

It's not that these folks don't exist. With nearly every company deploying virtualization, there simply aren't enough experts to go around, points out Andi Mann, vice president of research, systems and storage with Enterprise Management Associates.

Joanne Kossuth, vice president of operations and CIO for Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., attributes the talent shortage to the rate of technological change coupled with the way computer scientists are trained. "This has made finding people who are flexible and adaptable enough for today really difficult," she says.

The situation is exacerbated because IT folks who have lost their jobs during the downturn tend to have held specific jobs at large corporations. "They may have a wealth of expertise in one particular area, but they haven't been trained in how to be good team players, communicators and agile learners," Kossuth says.

It hasn't always been this way, she adds. "When I was coming up, you had to be a generalist. We crimped our own cable, we had to know the operating systems, we had to be able to do a whole lot," she says. "But we've gone through a long period of time where people have been able to come in and say, 'OK, I do Windows or I do Linux. I do this type of desktop or this client."

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