Data Center

The Decisions Changing the Face of Data Center Management

Adoption of Cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile/social and Big Data are triggering the need for massive transformations in the data center. The business decisions around the precise mix of on- and off-premise infrastructure, as well as factors such as convergence and the role of software are creating a shift in those who manage it.

The decision of a business to move to a collocated environment, balance colocation with on-premise infrastructure, “go it alone” or get help, has changed the skill sets and experience being required of data center managers.

And as the industry trends toward cloud and colocation, we’ve already begun to see that play out in big ways. According to the Global Data Center Employment 2015 report from DCD Intelligence, global data center employment continues to grow to the tune of an estimated 620,000 people working in the industry this year versus the approximately 585,000 in 2014.

But, importantly, these gains appear almost completely in the IT and networks side of the business that – due to convergence, deployment of IT architectures and services, and software’s increasing role in data center management and operation – has seen steady increases while those on the facilities side have been stable.

In fact, estimates suggest that 2015 will be the year when IT-focused data center employees (at an estimated 315,000) surpass facility-oriented ones (at 305,000). This shift mirrors some changes we are witnessing in data center management.

Schneider Electric wanted to better understand how these forces were impacting and ultimately changing the job of data center management, so we recently commissioned a study by EMM Group, which identified the emergence of three distinct types of managers, each with unique priorities and methodologies in data center design.

We found managers can be grouped by those who manage colocation or cloud environments, and two distinct approaches to on-premise data center management:

Co-lo/cloud solutions: In the case of those managing data centers that are co-located or leveraging cloud services, the job of the data center manager is perhaps most changed; it’s all about managing service level agreements. These managers, which include the approximately 35 percent of SMBs who’ve jumped to the cloud—are typically comfortable with security levels provided by their provider. This can be very industry and application specific, of course. For example in the financial industry cloud might only be welcome for less sensitive data, while more sensitive data remains hosted internally.

Cloud and colocation creates the challenges being answered by the changing ratio in data center employment. Still, internal IT departments with traditional skills need to be retrained to manage apps in the cloud.

On-premise (“go-it-alone” types): Reluctant to accept an outside host’s security, on-premise data centers give these managers the control their risk adverse businesses need. A bit more than half of our study’s sample group are these do-it-yourself managers, acting as their own general contractors as it relates to their data centers. These are sophisticated experts in managing the entire data center’s multiple components.

On-premise (“collaborators”): Similarly risk adverse, other data center managers seek out consultation to augment what they already know, so long as it helps them make safe decisions that help them support their company’s growth. Those who take such a collaborative approach more often look for holistic solutions to data center management.

All data center managers, from all backgrounds, are experiencing unparalleled pressure to hit and maintain high performance. This pressure intensifies each business decision and, in fact, our study found the biggest pain points in data center management today is in the assessment, discussion and design stages.

Cloud computing will increasingly be an element of those discussions and designs but likely in a hybrid approach that uses the best of cloud, co-location and internal enterprise data centers to take advantage of the flexibility and quick deployment from cloud for some apps and the security and steadfast control of on-premise facility for others.

These forces aren’t just transforming the data center, they will also continue to transform you, your staff and your peers – and for the better.

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