As part of the preparation for our upcoming Cassini Club Roundtable on skills, we have been gathering your views to help frame the discussion. Early responses suggest concerns about newer areas beyond traditional infrastructure management.

Cloud migration-related infrastructure skills

Cloud was a big issue for many respondents. What’s more, it isn’t really basic skills that are bothering people, but the strategic impact of any skills shortage. In other words, issues like the effect on connectivity for telecoms operator access, meet-me room configuration and the installed and planned structured cabling network (the LAN cabling network). All these have big implications, but quite how they will play out is very unclear.

Respondents also recognise that the knock-on effects on customers may be huge. For example, there may be business-specific IT competencies required for cloud migration that will change what is needed at the co-location level.

Energy efficiency issues

There is considerable concern about skills to manage energy efficiency requirements. These issues related to both existing and new technologies. First of all, there were issues around the energy production process, and also around “distributed heating”. Data centre managers were concerned about whether they had the skills to be able to maximise performance and really wring the advantages out of this type of system. The second area might be considered ‘disruptive innovation’—new technologies that will give rise to paradigm shifts in energy and cooling technologies, for example—and how these might be incorporated.

Linked to this issue is the question of being able to advise customers on energy efficiency: without the expertise in-house, it is hard to become an expert for customers. In particular, respondents worry about building technologies and certification for energy efficiency. These are high in demand, but what must be done to attain them? Beyond the simple power consumption of IT equipment, will data centres be able to investigate and evaluate the cost-saving implications of various possible ‘green’ computing paths? Customers are starting to demand it, but where are the skills to deliver?

Customers also want smart capture and analysis of data, to give them answers to problems. They know about the potential of ‘big data’, and they want to see some of the benefits of holistic analysis in their own energy efficiency.

Value-added sales skills among business developers

A number of issues were raised in the area of business developers’ skills. These included:

  • Physical LAN and IT infrastructure market evolution (towards IaaS, PaaS, private/public cloud);
  • Managed services competencies to help the data centre move up the value-chain; and
  • Direct business experiences, as this makes it easier to spot and address customers’ ‘pain points’.

All these skills help both data centre and customer or colocation partner to deliver better services to end users, and so are crucial in adding value right up and down the value chain.

Long-term contract competencies

Data centre contracts are often very long-term. This brings its own set of challenges. Should data centres have their own legal expertise or experience to help them to address these?

How much, for example, can contracts be ‘future-proofed’ to ensure that improvements in technology are added? There are complex issues relating to buildings, including the long-term investment cycles, which are a concern for both buyers and sellers, as is energy cost and efficiency. Predicting the future is still something of a challenge, but data centre operators need to try and identify the outlook for the next few years in key areas.

There are separate issues relating to long-term service level agreements (SLAs). Again, legal skills may be a vital part of the contracting and SLA process, because conditions can often be complex. Cascading agreement conditions, with more and more IT integrators “owning” the end-users in co-locations, are causing concerns to many respondents.

Legal and financial advisory competencies

With data confidentiality law increasingly complicated, and countries and regions often having different rules, the law may not be keeping up with the existing situation. How, then, should data centres ensure compliance on managed IT services and on IT security conditions, for example data protection for the co-location partner or telecoms operator?

Data centre providers are not lawyers, and nor are they financial whiz-kids, but they are starting to need expertise in both. Long-term contracts related to complex buildings and IT installations can have serious legal, as well as financial, implications. Not only do data centre operators need to understand these issues for themselves, but they may be asked or challenged by co-location partners or clients.

Given the increasing breadth of expertise required to run the modern data centre, regular skills audits have become critical. Are yours up to the task?

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