Today's data centers require a jack-of-all-trade

Companies are on the ropes trying to fill senior data center management positions because today's data centers require a jack-of-all-trades, with a mix of IT, facilities and security management expertise.

"Traditionally, data center managers did focus on IT. But today, they do so much more. With companies running out of data center space and encountering power and cooling issues, it's extremely important for data center leaders to be educated in other areas such as facilities," says Jill Eckhaus, CEO of AFCOM, an association for data center managers.

This combination of skills is so rare that AFCOM predicts by 2015, "the talent pool of qualified senior-level technical and management data center professionals will shrink by 45%."

In 2006, 38% of respondents to an AFCOM survey said they had unfilled positions in their data centers, and 15% said it takes them six months or longer to fill open senior-level technical or management positions.

Neal Smith, data center manager for core services at Intel Corp.'s Oregon data center operations, says he understands the difficulty organizations face in finding skilled labor because data center responsibilities are much broader than IT.

"In IT, you often work in a limited group, such as messaging. The data center is where everything comes together -- networking, facilities, business units, security and storage -- all in the same place. You have to understand all these moving parts," he says.

In addition, the mounting pressures of compliance with regulatory mandates, energy constraints and real estate shortages often fall on the data center manager's shoulders.

John Oyhagaray, vice president of programs at the 7x24 Exchange International, a group for managers of mission-critical enterprise infrastructures, says the more IT professionals reach outside their comfort zones and get away from the traditional segregation of duties, the more successful they will be.

"Senior management will not stand for finger-pointing between Facilities and Systems," he says. "There is no room for a segregation mind-set. In the data center, everyone is responsible for system uptime."

"The best thing an IT manager can do is to learn a little something in each of the areas they know nothing about and develop a base knowledge," Oyhagaray adds.

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