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Data Center Training for Every Level of Expertise

March 10, 2017

Data Center Training for Every Level of Expertise

As the tier level or complexity of the data center increases, the qualification levels for the technicians also increase. They all need to have the required training and licenses for their trades and job descriptions as well as the appropriate experience with data center operations. Coming from the leading data center management organization for professionals, AFCOM’s 2015 State of the Data Center Survey continued to sound the alarm about a growing data center talent gap.

The evolving data center is seeing less compartmentalization in terms of discipline and area of expertise and is becoming more of a data center where specialists must also be generalists in terms of data center functions. The most in-demand roles include:

  • Database administrator (DBA)
  • Database developer
  • Database designer/database architect
  • Data analyst/data scientist
  • Data mining/business intelligence (BI) specialist
  • Data warehousing specialist

While these roles are highly specialized, they also require a broad-knowledge understanding beyond traditional data center roles. That being said, the cloud also requires a broader knowledge base and set of skills than those required in more traditional support roles such as:

  • Storage admins
  • Server admins
  • Client services
  • Help desk

Almost every major data center technology provider has training and certification programs that encompass introductory positions for data center technicians all the way through to advanced data center architects.

Introductory to mid-level training (two to four years of experience)

Most data center technician jobs require you to have some combination of education, experience, and certifications, so many people start on the data center technician path with no formal education or with just an associate’s degree. Most colleges with computer programs offer computer science/networking technology tracks with database tracks at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

That being said, there are few well-known vendor-neutral certifications for data center technology/practices. These training programs offer advanced as well as basic data center competency training. For those relatively new to the field, the training and associated certifications focus on proficiency in working with physical data center infrastructures such as:

  • Power and cooling
  • Racks
  • Cabling
  • Management
  • Security

The Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals is one of the few vendor-agnostic training and certification bodies offering its Certified Data Management Professional training tracks. These are offered at both the Mastery and Practitioner levels. Another highly regarded training and certification body is the International Data Center Authority.

Mastery and Practitioner Level Training/Certification

Cisco reports that by 2018, more than three quarters (78 percent) of workloads will be processed by cloud data centers. In addition, 59 percent of the total cloud workloads will be software as a service workloads by that time. This is just one of the factors that will have a profound impact on the needed skill set and experience of data center architects, engineers, managers, and developers.

Cloud technology has ushered in new types of servers, converged infrastructure, virtualization, power and cooling technology evolutions, and much more. The effect of the cloud on the data center has impacted applications and workloads as well as uptime, disaster recovery, and business continuity. All of these are having a profound impact on the training needed for the expanding skill set and approach taken by data center architects, engineers, and developers.

The database, virtualization, and networking technology providers with the highest global market penetration have the most extensive offerings in training and certification. A partial list follows:

  • Cisco
  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • VMware
  • Citrix
  • Red Hat
  • Oracle

In general, these vendors offer training programs geared to those with little experience in the field (one to two years) at the low end. They also go all the way up to highly advanced training for data center architects, engineers, developers, and DBAs as well as analysts and BI and warehousing professionals.

These are professionals with seven-plus years of experience in data center and networking technology. Today, most training programs and associated certifications blend traditional data center networking and cloud management.

A combination of instructor-led classroom training and massive open online courses is generally the norm for training outside of the college track. Their goal is to enable ongoing training by data centers as well as individual staff members looking to increase their effectiveness and salaries.

The AFCOM Survey cited earlier shows that most firms hope to address their data center talent gaps with further training. Service vendors and the manufacturers working with value-added resellers (VARs) can help fill that gap as well. By helping clients find solutions for their training needs, VARs can strengthen their business relationships and the bottom line.

How can you help your business clients bridge the data center skills gap?