Professional Transitioning: Skills Needed to Move from On-Premises to Colo, Cloud

In what should be a comfortably advancing career, the over-40 group faces a hard choice – learn new skills or face early retirement – or worse, be consigned to performing IT grunt work for the latest hot-shot hire who is 20 years their junior.

Drew Robb

December 6, 2017

3 Min Read
CERN data center in Meyrin, Switzerland, 2017
CERN data center in Meyrin, Switzerland, 2017Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The over-40 segment of data center managers have accumulated expertise in areas such as hardware refreshes, client/server infrastructures, tape library management, analog-based building systems, and in the finer points of various programming languages. Yet they find that many of their hard-won talents are no longer in demand.

In what should be a comfortably advancing career, they face a hard choice – learn new skills or face early retirement – or worse, be consigned to performing IT grunt work for the latest hot-shot hire who is 20 years their junior.

But acquiring new skills may not be as painful as it appears. It is possible to transition. Those well-versed in on-premises data center work can move over to co-location or cloud-based work. It is also possible to supplement IT skills with facility management know-how as a way to stay relevant in the ever-changing data center.

The enterprise data center requires a great deal of flexibility. Most of the time, staff wear multiple hats to develop a way to get things done at the pace of the organization. Colos and cloud facilities, on the other hand, often focus their work on product/service definition, best practices, compliancy and other issues that relate to a larger group of clientele. They are oriented to meeting a broad set of specifications and requirements.

“The skills data center personnel need to cultivate would be in the area of identifying standards and compliance requirements applicable to the region or colo in which they plan to work,” said AFCOM Advisory Board Member, Jamie Fogal. “Individually, understanding the application of metrics and monitoring when coupled with action, will give the individual a head start.”

Metrics are heavily utilized in colocation facilities as well as by the providers of cloud services in day to day operations. Metrics offer a snapshot of the current situation. By watching trends, it is possible to establish a baseline. Monitoring and alerting based on metrics helps to raise awareness of anomalous behavior. Actions can then be taken to eliminate anomalies and drive the operation toward greater stability. Such skills may be foreign to some in-house data center specialists, but they will probably be needed by those wishing to switch to cloud or colo positions. The good news is that they can be learned rapidly.

Cindy Joos, vice president of Global Shared Services for Cyxtera Technologies, added real estate knowledge and change management procedures as a couple of other areas to learn for those already experienced in on-premises data center work who are considering a move to the co-location field.

“Within the colocation environment, there are many customers sharing the infrastructure. They need to understand how that fits into how you can and cannot operate in your cage,” she said. “Change Management is important in order to follow and understand the impact of colocation provider changes.” 

To learn more about what it takes to transition into today's enterprise data center, read this article in full on the AFCOM website.

The article is free to AFCOM members. To learn more about AFCOM or to join the association, visit here.

AFCOM is a sister organization to Data Center Knowledge.

About the Author(s)

Drew Robb

Drew Robb has been a full-time professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. He currently works freelance for a number of IT publications.

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