Gartner: Complexity is IT’s Big Problem. Talented Staff is the Answer

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David Cappuccio, Gartner VP and Chief of Research, delivers opening keynote at Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas. He said the evolution toward the virtual data center is one of the top trends of the next few years, because of business continuity and the ability to move workloads across multiple data centers can address capacity issues and reduce power costs.

LAS VEGAS – IT environments are becoming more and more complex, requiring data centers to support more technologies and devices. Mastering this growing complexity is perhaps the greatest challenge faced by enterprise IT, analysts from Gartner said yesterday. What’s the solution? Hiring talented staff and enabling them to thrive.

The critical role of skilled employees in taming complexity ran through several presentations yesterday at the annual Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas.

“We’re adding complexity to the IT process,” said keynote speaker David Cappuccio, Managing VP and Chief of Research at Gartner. Cappuccio said trends like BYOD (“bring your own device”) and task specialization continue to test IT staff. And then there’s software defined networking (SDN).

“We think (SDN) is going to cause some huge organizational changes within organizations,” said Cappuccio, who sees a similar impact for Big Data. “What will we do with all this data? Data center people still need to manage this stuff. Storage growth is one of the biggest challenges in the data center, and it’s not slowing down.

“The biggest problem is that we spend all our time keeping the lights on,” he added. “Only a small percentage of the budget is for innovation.”

Beware the ‘Cascade Effect’

You might think the growing complexity of the data center requires more specialists. Instead, Cappuccio said companies should incentivize employees to learn about a broader set of technologies, so staffers can understand how to tie technologies together, and then tap specific expertise as needed. He said it was particularly important for more data center staff to understand the “cascade effect” of making changes in a complex environment.

Gartner Managing VP Ray Paquet said enterprise data center operators can learn many lessons from the largest cloud computing providers. While many of those lessons involved hardware and software, Paquet said staff plays an important role in IT agility – a key goal of cloud adoption for most enterprises.

“Cloud providers are superior at recruiting talent,” said Paquet. “If you want to become more agile, hire the best people.”

Paquet pointed to the rise of DevOps, a new breed of staffer bridging the worlds of systems administrator and developers, mastering both disciplines in able to quickly configure and update systems in dynamic data center environments. A key focus of the DevOps movement is automation of complex cloud architectures.

This advanced automation has had a profound impact on cloud computing providers, Paquet said, allowing one staffer to manage as many as 10,000 servers in cloud environments, compared to the 100 servers per admin seen in most enterprise companies.

Paquet also hailed the importance of open source technologies. “Make sure to hire people with open source skills – Linux skills, Hadoop skills, MapReduce skills, Hive skills,” he said. “Hire the people who know these communities. It’s more important to know who can fix something than having to fix it yourself.”

And what about when the IT department and data centers teams master all this complexity? What then?

“No matter what IT does, if it’s great today, it’s expected tomorrow,” said Cappuccio. “The demand will continue to grow, but our budgets will not grow along with demand.”

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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