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Admins now require data center skills 'a mile wide'

The role of a data center professional is changing in the face of cloud, the internet of things and evolving security. One hiring manager talks about the changes and why admins need broader skill sets.

LAS VEGAS -- As many organizations move data out of traditional on-premises infrastructure and into the cloud,...

data center skills and jobs undergo a major shift.

Technologies such as automation, serverless computing, microservices and IaaS enter the data center and push aside more traditional management jobs. A typical IT admin's career is no longer linear, as admins need to take on new responsibilities that emerging technologies create in data center jobs.

Chris Moschella, director of infrastructure and operations at LivaNova, a medical device manufacturer in Houston, is involved in hiring for data center jobs. Here, at Gartner's IT infrastructure, operations and cloud strategies conference, Moschella discussed how the role of the data center admin is changing and what IT can do about it.

What is changing in technology that's driving this shift in data center skills?

Chris MoschellaChris Moschella

Chris Moschella: I've been in IT close to 20 years, and I've seen lots of changes: outsourcing, insourcing, virtualization. This is probably the biggest change that we've gone through, because it's just a reteaching of skills. The traditional jobs in data centers -- the racking-and-stacking-type jobs, the managing of virtual machines [VMs] -- that's all going away, and it's moving towards cloud infrastructure, being able to manage data.

I don't think the data center is ever going to be dead. The role of it is going to shrink. There are things that can never go to the cloud. I don't look at [cloud] as cheaper; I look at it as: 'Can we get this to market faster?' A lot of our new development stuff happens [in the cloud]. Some things are always going to remain on-prem; there will be security concerns.

We're always looking for the master of a technology. We never wanted the jack of all trades, master of none, but that's where this is headed, because everyone is kind of overlapping with each other now. Now, we're hiring that jack of all trades because he knows Python, a little about the internet of things, some cloud management. Everybody that we're hiring now needs to be an inch deep and a mile wide.

How does your career path reflect a multidirectional approach to IT learning?

Moschella: I've worked in many parts of infrastructure -- the applications side, project management side, business analyst side -- and it's brought me back to infrastructure. I'm out of the day-to-day operations; I'm more along with the business side than the technical piece. I take the skills with me, but it's changed a lot.

What are the most important data center skills admins should have?

Moschella: Cloud management. Data management is really big. Data analytics. Security. Those are the main focuses that we're looking for.

How do you deal with admins that have legacy skills, such as COBOL and mainframe?

Moschella: When I reference legacy stuff, it's managing backups, servers, storage, traditional network management. As we move things to the cloud, we're not building as many things on prem. It's all being built externally, so their responsibility for that isn't there. What they're managing is shrinking.

We've been trying to get them retrained in different areas. There are three problems that I see. First, they don't like it. Second, they perceive it as giving them more work and not more money or more titles. Third, when we hire new people -- say, to manage cloud -- it's generally someone in their early twenties, because that's what they know. To take very seasoned admins and say, 'Now you're an apprentice with this person,' is a very hard pill for these guys to swallow. That comes back to, 'Now you're asking me to do two jobs.' Because that [legacy] stuff doesn't go away, but I need them to be trained for when it does. It probably won't, but it'll need to be reduced.

What infrastructure technologies have you implemented, and how have they affected your team?

A lot of people are viewing cloud as a fad, but it's not going to go away.
Chris MoschellaDirector of infrastructure and operations, LivaNova

Moschella: With software-defined networking, the network team still manages that piece. It just took away the MPLS [Multiprotocol Label Switching] part of it. Hyper-converged affected a lot of groups -- the network team, storage, operations -- because now it's basically managed by the VM admin. Storage has been going through this in the last five to seven years; it used to be EMC and the big [Dell EMC] VMAX. But that's gone away, too; it's all commodity-based, where it doesn't take a specialized skill to manage it.

What advice would you give to a seasoned data center admin?

Moschella: Don't close your mind off. It's a journey, and unless you're getting ready to retire, it's about expanding your [data center] skill set and learning more. A lot of people are viewing cloud as a fad, but it's not going to go away. Don't get yourself locked into 'This is my job. This is my technology, my little box, and I manage it.'

What advice would you give to data center job candidates?

Moschella: Learn as much as you can. Expose yourself to as much emerging technologies -- cloud, internet of things, data management, security -- as possible. I'm looking for that jack of all trades that can lend a hand everywhere and eventually get to that level of where they own a skill set.

This was last published in December 2018

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