In the era of digital transformation, data centers are no longer simply places to send and store data. They have taken on a much more central role in today’s digitized businesses, providing a gateway to a new world of opportunities. New technologies have revitalized the data center, making it a flexible repository of an organization’s critical data and software that must have high availability to meet the needs of the business and its customers. 

The current business environment of remote workers, geographic distribution and 24/7 service means that enterprises need access to data from anywhere. They must analyze it instantly and then use it to make rapid decisions in order to fuel innovation and reach their desired business outcomes. Thus, the business need has changed from simply connecting devices; it is now about securing, aggregating, automating and drawing insights from the data these devices generate. This is all done in a way that opens up new markets and new business models.

Research firm JLL forecasts that globally, the multi-tenant data center (MTDC) market will rise at a compound annual growth rate of 12.1 percent by 2018. And IDC predicts that by 2018, 60 percent of companies will rely on highly instrumented data centers that use automation to boost efficiency and tie data center and IT spend to business value. In such an environment, the skills that data center professionals must have are changing rapidly. Those who embrace this development and learn new skills will be rewarded. Those who don’t will be left behind.

Modern data center infrastructure requires multiple skills

As architectures change rapidly and significantly, data center professionals need advanced skills to upgrade and maintain them. While deep product and technical knowledge is still necessary, IT professionals focused on the data center are expected to have skills and knowledge depth and breadth with multiple technologies that enable the data center for “IT-as-a-service” agile infrastructure.

Because the data center engenders so many possibilities today, professionals will be expected to cover a much broader area of knowledge and expertise. A few specialists will remain, but more and more they will need new skills and be expected to take advantage of new technologies focused on data center infrastructure. These infrastructure-oriented skills span servers, storage, networking and hardware. Other skills cover software, the cloud, virtualization and data protection.

The age of the data center generalist is upon us, and professionals who acquire the needed skills will turbo-charge their value to the organization. Automating IT tasks shortens the time needed to get applications running and to meet business needs better. Data center professionals need to know how to use SDN policies that take into account business needs across physical and virtual networks, servers, storage, security and services. They must also integrate all physical and virtual environments under one policy model. All of this enables businesses to derive greater value from growing volumes of data in a faster timeframe. It also significantly boosts IT responsiveness without additional resources.

To ensure that professionals are learning the skills that today’s data centers need—and that they can apply those skills appropriately—certifications can be obtained. This external validation gives employers confidence that their IT professionals can tackle challenging roles in today’s complex data centers.

New era, new skills

As data center pros acquire hands-on, skill-based training and certification, they are empowered to optimally plan, implement and run IT data center network infrastructure in support of agile and innovative business initiatives.

Because learners do not all start at the same level, the training should serve learners from the beginner to the advanced professional. Training should enable the IT practitioner on topics such as:

  • Data center security
  • Basic skills for installing, configuring and maintaining data centers
  • The basics of cloud computing, automation and orchestration of data center infrastructure
  • Evolving technologies like IoT and cloud
  • Unified computing
  • Virtualization
  • Policy-driven infrastructure
  • Storage networking
  • SDN management and monitoring

Shrewd investments

Digitization rises or falls on the strength of an enterprise’s data center – and the professionals who manage it. These employees become partners in achieving business goals by understanding how to leverage new data center technologies. Consequently, investing in their training and development is investing in business success.


For an in-depth exploration of the challenges and benefits of the today’s ever-evolving data center, check out Aberdeen’s comprehensive research report, Building a Data Center to Meet the Challenges of Today’s Technologies.


Antonella Corno is the senior manager of product strategy at Learning@Cisco.


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