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Offering Data Center Training as a Value-Added Service

October 07, 2017

There are three big technology trends causing big changes in the data center: the cloud, big data, and the Internet of Things. These are widespread: surveys find 93% of respondents are using the cloud and more than 85% have big data projects in the works. As for the Internet of Things, more than one billion devices will be shipped this year.

These trends are disruptive, and disruption means opportunity. In one survey, 75% of respondents said they have a hard time hiring enough people with the skills they need. At the same time, only 4% of companies have aligned their training with their digital strategy.

This means that being able to offer data center training to your customers is a true value-added service that makes you a partner in their success and differentiates you from value-added resellers (VARs) that disappear once equipment is deployed. Here's a look at the kinds of training that will provide value to your customers.

Virtualization and Cloud

Most companies have some experience with virtualization by now, but managing virtual machines is a skill. Companies also need training to develop knowledge and experience of new container-based software like Docker.

The cloud takes virtualization to a whole 'nother level and presents an entire range of issues that data center operations need to become familiar with. Data center training can prepare the team to support the cloud by answering questions like:

How will data get to the cloud? When there are massive volumes of data to be moved, how will the data be shipped? Does your network have the bandwidth to support this transmission, or will devices need to be physically shipped?

How will applications be deployed and monitored? Each cloud vendor has its own tools for deployment and monitoring. Companies need data center training in order to understand the cloud vendor's tools and how to use them.

Is your data safe? Security is a big concern for companies when applications move to the cloud. The firewall around their network only protects data when they’re inside the network; when applications are in the cloud, that's a small part of the time. Data center training can help companies understand the security provided by the cloud provider and decide what additional measures they need to take.

How will capacity be managed? Cloud computing lets companies only pay for the capacity they need, whether CPU cycles or storage space. The process for obtaining additional capacity is radically different from when companies use their own devices.

Big Data

The massive volumes of data needed for big data analytics overwhelm data centers with the need for storage devices and computational capacity to crunch the numbers. There are new kinds of hardware and software that require data center training. Companies need training to become familiar with the following:

New kinds of software. Analytics software includes Hadoop and Mapreduce, plus languages like R. There's also a move toward NoSQL databases instead of the more conventional, widely understood SQL products. The ability to pull data out of corporate data warehouses is critical.

New kinds of hardware. The impact goes beyond software to hardware, as they require high-availability clusters. Hardware needs to be scalable; companies are looking at hardware appliances and multicore processors.

A new kind of file system. There's a new kind of file system, the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), which manages the extremely large volume of data. Besides needing to supply adequate disk space for this, the operations team needs training to create effective backup and restoration strategies.

Network impact of analyses. The nature of analytics jobs creates spiky traffic. ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) and other data transformations are intensive. The actual analytics tasks are less intensive, but the impact depends on how the jobs are scheduled.

Internet of Things

For data centers, one of the biggest issues of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that end users don't realize these items impact the network. It's hard to blame them; no one thinks of a light bulb as technology, not even if it's a "smart" light bulb. This almost insidious presence is why data center training is needed to plan for them:

Security. Every IoT device is another potential point of entry into the network and presents a security risk. No matter how removed from business operations, hackers can use the IoT to get access to corporate systems—at Target, hackers used the HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) system to gain entry.

Network bandwidth. IoT devices use companies' wireless networks to connect to the Internet. This bandwidth can add up and cause performance issues for other services like VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) or video.

The rapid pace of technical change has always made it difficult for companies to keep up. By working with the right partners, VARS can offer data center training and position themselves and their customers for success.