Data Center Staffing Still A Challenge
January 12th, 2009 By: Rich Miller
Finding qualified applicants to staff enterprise data centers remains a problem, but the number of companies who say they are understaffed has improved from 2007. That’s one of the key findings of Symantec’s State of the Data Center 2008 (PDF) report, which was released today.
While the staffing challenges are slightly improved on a year-to-year basis, many companies continue to report problems finding workers, even as internal mandates to “do more with less” are raising expectations.
Thirty seven percent of data center executives say they are understaffed, compared to 52 percent in Symantec’s 2007 survey. Meanwhile, the number of respondents who say they are neither overstaffed or understaffed jumped by 15 percent, from 41 percent to 56 percent.
Forty eight percent say finding qualified applicants is a big or huge problem, which is aggravated by the need to staff distributed data centers.
The other notable shift in the survey dealt with user expectations. Ten percent of respondents said it was becoming “much more difficult” to meet the service levels demanded by other parts of the organization, while the number of executives who found it “easier or less costly” to meet expectations shrank from 18 percent in 2007 to 12 percent this year.
“IT managers and executives are in a tough spot,” said said Rob Soderbery, senior vice president of Symantec’s Storage and Availability Management Group. “Cost reduction is a non-negotiable objective this year, while user expectations remain high and demand continues to rise.”
See Symantec’s State of the Data Center web site for additional details and analysis.
I don’t think this is honestly about the pool of available applicants; I think it’s that the job industry and recruiters writ large have diluted the terms used pretty intensely. There used to be some great focused job sites specifically for people in the community. I also think that the employers want too much cross-domain knowledge from the applicants; they want a system administrator with their data center or network architect, and that’s too much cross domain knowledge to expect from your average applicant (though there are people with all of the above.)
I have always believed that part of the solution to data center staffing is the ability and willingness to outsource specialty roles. If you only need 50% of a network engineers time, outsource it. You can get better quality resources for less cost, without the overhead of FTE’s.
The same thing is true for distributed low level positions. If you need DC Techs to troubleshoot hardware, install, test, kickstart, etc – it is a much better value to find a solid company with a nationwide (or international) presence that can “put feet on the ground” in a quick hurry if need be.
When you factor in the cost of maintaining employees vs. the cost of outsourcing, outsourcing will win many times, especially in today’s market. The availability of highly trained specialized resources is staggering, and many of those resources are turning to contracting. I know…I hire them.
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