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Cloud threatens traditional IT jobs, forces change

Cloud computing is making corporate-owned data centers less common, and companies continue to reduce IT staff.

SANTA CLARA -- Cloud computing will continue to change the modern data center in eight distinct ways, and has already resulted in enterprise IT job cuts.

Those changes to the data center will include connectivity, resiliency, trust, overprovisioning, speculative build out, business management, controls and automation and expansion of the data center perimeter, according to Andy Lawrence, the research vice president for data center technologies at 451 Research, who outlined the changes to traditional enterprise and colocation data centers in a session at the Uptime Institute Symposium this week.

"Cloud focuses on the business needs rather than the silo needs of the facilities people and the IT people," he said.

A shift in data centers' decisions from facilities and IT pros to the business side of the enterprise also fuels a move to cloud, he said.

"They will be much more driven by the business requirements than facilities or IT people," Lawrence said.

Many IT pros are "slightly defensive" about cloud computing and, according to some CTOs, it may be a well-founded position. Lawrence said a CTO at a major financial institution told him that their business is likely to reduce its IT workforce by 95% by 2020, and other IT leaders have shared similar stories. Those leaders felt liberated and emboldened by the cloud and the bring-your-own-device phenomenon, he said.

Lawrence pointed to a T-shirt from Amazon Web Services (AWS) emblazoned with the words "Friends don't let friends build data centers."

AWS has added to its offerings development tools, mobile device management and email, among other services.

"That is quite an in-your-face challenge to those of you that are operating enterprise data centers," Lawrence said. "It is a serious threat."

While traditional corporate IT departments shrink, IT positions arise in the cloud with providers such as AWS hiring as they grow. Those cloud IT jobs require different skills.

And looking further out, emerging technologies such as Internet of Things will also impact IT.

"The Internet of Things is in the very, very early stages," Lawrence said. The 50 billion wireless connected devices expected by 2020 "will create a tsunami of data that will have to go somewhere." That means IT will continue to grow.

"A rising tide lifts all boats," he said.

Meanwhile, 451 Research estimates there are still about four million traditional server closets in the world.

"The assumption is that a lot of those four million will go to the cloud or premium data centers," Lawrence said.

A few of those four million server closets are at the University of the Pacific, which has three campuses in Northern California. Robert Henderson, executive director of cyber infrastructure at the college, said he is seeing firsthand the changes cloud computing is bringing about, including a reduced role for the university's three data centers in the future.

"The connection to the cloud is more important than ever," he said. "It is more than an Internet connection."

Even with a reduced role for the university's data centers, Henderson said he expects the demands on IT to grow, mainly from the school's human resources and business-side users.

"You're still going to need the applications close to the edge, close to the users," he said.

Another change coming to the data center will be that more of them will be constructed at the edge, and not all data centers will be so-called stick-build. Instead, a data center could be brought in on a skid, where it will be "plug and go," Lawrence said.

"I think that is something people haven't grasped," he said.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyperconverged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him @RBGatesTT

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