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Lighten the load

With new technologies to master, their own skills to brush up on, as well as the smooth running of their facilities to contend with, data centre professionals cannot afford to have vast amounts of their time eaten up by mundane day-to-day IT tasks. Sascha Giese, head geek at SolarWinds, discusses what processes should be prioritised in order to free up precious time, and examines how DCIM can help ease the pressure.

Today’s organisations are hungry for data, and for good reason too. Whether it’s providing customer insights, highlighting performance issues, or enabling better decision making, the real business value of data is huge.

This means the data centre is a critical factor in the success of any organisation, and data centre professionals have a lot to contend with. Fully accountable for the process, control, and maintenance of the data centre sites they run, organisations rely on their skill sets and expertise to ensure critical data is monitored, accessible, and secure.

With first-class data centre performance so imperative to an organisation, these individuals need to be able to analyse data, spot anomalies, and resolve them quickly to prevent any issues from escalating. How- ever, with the growing complexity of the data centre, thanks to hybrid approaches and virtualised environments, they’re facing an increasingly uphill battle.

Providing data centre professionals with the correct training – to ensure they feel confident in these increasingly complex environments – is essential. Yet despite a need for confident, certified, and expert data centre professionals, there’s a significant labour and skills shortage need- ing to be addressed. IT professionals are well aware of this shortcoming, as highlighted in the recent SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2019: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow – 70% of all tech professionals aren’t ‘completely confident’ they have the necessary skills required to manage their IT environments over the next three to five years.

Waning confidence amongst professionals doesn’t stem from any unwillingness to learn the necessary skills, though. In fact, tech pros are inquisitive by nature and have an appetite to prioritise career development to enhance operational efficiency – but nearly 80% say their day-to-day IT tasks eat into time earmarked for professional development. This skill gap really must not go unnoticed. But what processes must data centre infrastructure managers and their bosses prioritise, to ensure they stay competitive, deliver the service and experience their customers expect, and crucially continue to progress their own personal development?

Adopt, adapt, and automate

The rate of change in the IT industry continues to grow quickly, leaving data centre professionals faced with an overwhelming number of emerging technologies to experiment with, master, and adopt – such as hybrid cloud, automation, and AI. Each of these new technologies pose significant benefits for improving data centre scalability, lowering capital expenditure, and improving reliability. Perhaps most importantly, this technology can reduce manual, time-intensive tasks slow to yield action- able insight and impede the data centre professional’s access to training for personal development.

Quickness and openness to adapt to change is therefore paramount. It’s important to remember that technology isn’t implemented to make roles redundant, but to improve the way in which we work. According to the report, 31% of organisations surveyed are using automation to address the skills gap and point to similar business investments as new methods of assisting their staff in developing skills.

Skills in data analysis continue to be in high demand, but with such huge amounts of data to analyse within the data centre, the task can seem daunt- ing. However, employing automation to separate and sort data-based on keywords or events can seriously expedite the data analysis process.

Eliminating time-intensive data collection and providing a more holistic view of system behaviour through monitoring tools, will enable data centre professionals to quickly spot and resolve issues. As many are lacking the skills to appropriately deploy automation, or other emerging technologies, there’s an issue. Particularly as this aspect of career development will be central to improving the data centre workforce.

Facilitate transformation

Finding ways to fuel digital transformation within organisations continues to be a big industry focus. The ability to provide insightful analysis continues to be in high demand for these projects. More specifically, the ability for tech and data centre professionals to apply this to security, is what many professionals (55%) believe will be most important to their organisation’s transformation over the next three to five years.

Considering data is widely considered to be one of an organisation’s most valuable assets, securing data is crucial in ensuring businesses do not breach regulation and risk facing crippling fines. The continued success of the data centre industry therefore relies heavily on data centre professionals developing key skills in SIEM (security information and event management) and threat intelligence. Again, many of the processes surrounding threat detection can be automated to provide greater visibility, but managing and analysing anomalies will still require a human touch and the ability to deploy and manage this technology.

Manage the future

Data centres are also struggling to recruit and retain staff with the appropriate qualifications. In such a booming industry, it’s hard to stay current when training new talent, particularly training individuals in educational institutions.

Data centre professionals also need to effectively be trained as managers. Only then will they be able to nurture new talent, which is vital for the good of the industry. Put simply, organisations need to begin investing in this type of training to future proof their workforce. 64% stated their top requirement is to become confident managing current and future environments. There’s clearly an appetite to prepare for the future – and organisations will need to invest in this, for their own sake.

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