Filling The IT Skills Gap

Do you have the right IT skills for the job?

In a previous post about understanding the changing roles in the data center, I discussed the need for a new mindset among data center personnel and some of the new roles emerging for IT professionals  like cloud architects and data center architects. But, even for the most progressive employees and managers, there’s the challenge of keeping current with new innovations and developing the skills to make the most out of the new technologies.

In recent weeks, there has been some newly published information about the IT skills gap and about cloud computing creating new jobs. Fortunately, some of the new education programs available to IT personnel now address the training needs of the physical and virtual data center as well as the new world of cloud computing—and the promise of Big Data analytics.

Where IT Hurts

Where’s the pain felt most?

According  to the recently published CompTIA “State of the IT Skills Gap – Full Report”, across all industries, the top IT skill priorities and biggest perceived gaps are in the core competencies of compute, network, and storage—the foundation of any data center.

Where it gets interesting is in the differences.

Larger firms are cited as placing greater importance on virtualization, SharePoint, and Big Data, while smaller firms seem more concerned with web-based skills like search engine optimization. IT-industry organizations put more importance on IT skills associated with Big Data, application development, mobility, and cloud computing.Seemingly, the IT industry is more focused on what’s to come.

To net it out, virtualization/cloud computing, Big Data, and applications appear to be the thrust. Regardless of size or industry, getting the most out of the virtual data center (VDC), requires a broader understanding of the entire environment.

For example, in the area of compute, systems professionals now need a service-delivery mentality. They need to understand how the IT model evolves and how to deploy virtualized server resources in a unified computing environment that meets today’s needs as well as future cloud and IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) models.

Technology for Competitive Advantage

Why are IT skills so important now?

The industrial age saw mills built up around waterways looking to harness the power of moving waters and the convenience of water transportation to move goods.

Fast forward to the twentieth-first century and technology is now at the core of many businesses, regardless of industry as organizations look to harness the power of software and chips and leverage the Internet to move data. Organizations are clamoring to stay ahead of the curve with the latest innovations.

In the industrial age productivity was defined by volume; the more goods produced, the more productive the enterprise. Today, productivity is defined by agility; the ability to respond quickly to new opportunities and new markets. And, this agility is usually found in leveraging the latest technologies.

Not surprisingly, given the pace of innovation in recent years, most organizations are not satisfied with their skill levels when it comes to technology. According to the recently published CompTIA report, 93% of the organizations surveyed were not satisfied with their current IT skills.

Get the Right Skills

What can you do to get the right IT skills?

Get yourself to a classroom—or maybe, to on-line training.

Organizations are more inclined to invest in training existing staff than hiring new. Self-directed training tops the list while vendor and other classroom education programs are close behind.

Given the interest in evolving core competencies around compute, network, and storage, it should be no surprise that the leaders in this area –VMware, Cisco, and EMC (the same coalition that delivers Vblock Infrastructure Platforms)—teamed up to announce comprehensive technical training solutions. These structured training solutions and certifications address the core data center technologies of importance as already mentioned, as well as advanced IT skills for cloud and Big Data.

These offerings enable IT professionals to choose their job role focus to select courses in a curriculum designed to advance their skills in their area.

The job roles include:

  • Compute Systems: Systems professionals implement and manage the compute resources in cloud environments.
  • Data Center Networking: Network administrators implement modern data center network designs involving network virtualization and unified fabrics.
  • Data Center Network Design: Network architects plan data centers based on virtualization, unified fabric, and cloud computing technologies.
  • Information Storage: Storage domain architects provide domain-specific data storage plans to support virtualized infrastructure implementations.
  • Backup Recovery: These professionals design and deploy backup recovery, business continuity, disaster recovery, and archiving solutions.
  • Management: These professionals monitor and manage the health, capacity, configuration and performance of virtualized and cloud infrastructure.
  • Cloud Architect: Cloud architects deliver long-term virtualization and cloud designs. They are concerned with IT-as-a-Service.

There are also foundation courses for Cloud Infrastructure and Services (CIS), Information Storage and Management, and Data Science and Big Data Analytics.

This comprehensive approach to enriching IT skills makes sense when you consider what is needed to leverage transformation technologies to evolve IT infrastructure, adopt a cloud computing model, and harness the power of Big Data analytics.

Stay Competitive

Public cloud computing as an emerging approach to the data center is forecasted to drive new job creation in a big way.

According to the just published IDC white paper “Cloud Computing’s Role in Job Creation”, the cumulative job growth generated by public cloud computing will grow from almost 7 million in 2012 to 14 million in 2015.

About two-thirds of the jobs will be IT technical roles according to hiring-demand business intelligence firm WANTED Analytics; the other third will be comprised of sales, marketing, finance, and other positions. Software engineers, systems engineers, and network administrators are the positions where cloud computing skills are most in demand.

And, unlike outsourcing practices in the not too distant past, these new jobs will not replace on-premise data center jobs but rather free up the resources closer to the business processes for more innovative, agile work. It seems the hybrid model for cloud computing will become the norm.

Whether you are an IT professional in an organization deploying virtualization or employed by a service provider, you’ll need new skills if you want to take advantage of these new opportunities. You need some form of continuing education to stay competitive.

Make sure you have the right skills—whether for your current job or the next one.

About the Author: Mark Prahl