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Top Ten IT Trends for 2014- Trend 10

by Hu Yoshida on Dec 18, 2013

Trend 10: The Transformation of IT Operations Skill Sets, Roles, and Responsibilities

As we look back at the IT trends that I described throughout this series, it is not surprising that the skill sets, roles, and responsibilities of IT operations staff will need to change.

Virtualization and automation through converged solutions and private cloud will eliminate a lot of the mundane infrastructure tasks of configuration, monitoring, change control, and reporting.  At VMworld San Francisco 2013 Ed Weigner, director of business development and global operations for oXya, a leading provider of technical services and hosting solutions with over 190,000 SAP users worldwide, said that prior to implementing Hitachi’s converged solution UCP, with VMware, it took several level 1 and 2 operations staff, in different areas to stand up an application and manage the infrastructure. Now it only takes one level 3 staff member, saving time and reducing errors through the automation provided by the UCP Director. While this enables IT to provide better value to the business, this has two implications for IT.  Less people will be required to manage the infrastructure and those who remain in infrastructure operations will only require entry-level skills, meaning less pay.

This doesn’t mean that less IT professionals will be required. It means that the focus for IT professionals must be less on infrastructure and more on application and business value. Recent surveys show that the demand for IT professionals is still very healthy, but the skills required are changing rapidly. The unemployment rate for IT professionals is 3.5%, down from last years first quarter rate of 4.4% according to Dice.com, an IT job site.  The numbers also show a greater shift toward the application, with software developer unemployment down to 2.2% and web developer unemployment down to 1%.  A recent poll at one of our customer councils indicated they were no longer hiring storage administrators.

Technologies that are driving cloud, mobile devices, object storage, and big data will drive the demand for knowledge that spans IT, applications, and business. Cloud architects are in high demand. These are IT professionals who know how to leverage the cloud. They know what applications fit the cloud model, the economic trade offs, how to secure and protect the data in the cloud, and how to negotiate a service level agreement with a cloud provider and with their internal users. This requires broader experience, cross-functional skills and demands higher pay.   Other skills that are in demand are security, application integration, RESTful protocols, object based storage, and data analysis tools. While there is a lot of hype about the need for data scientists, the reality may be that data analysts with data base experience, knowledge about object based storage, and tools for data gathering, data cleansing and data profiling may be more useful at this time. Data protection, including backup/restore, business continuance, archive, and application failover is still in high demand, but IT professionals must upgrade to the latest technologies to take control over the sprawl and be more effective.

Convergence is a trend that is changing the roles and responsibilities of IT administrators. Do you need separate storage, server, SAN, LAN, and Hypervisor administrators when everything can be managed through the Hypervisor’s management portal? Do you need as many systems administrators to roll a patch out to a 100 virtual servers when all these servers reside on one physical server?

Storage migration is a daunting task, that requires careful planning and execution but it is not an everyday task. Technology refreshes require expert knowledge and may require a learning curve in order to maximize the benefits of these technologies. Instead of staffing for each new migration it may be more efficient and less costly to outsource the migration to a vendor who knows the technology and is experienced in migrations. Hitachi Data Systems provides a storage migration service to a large financial company for all their storage, including other vendor products, on a global basis. This converts the staffing and capital equipment costs of migration to a less expensive, task based, service charge.  It reduces the migration time to value and eliminates a lot of the errors that result from inexperience. It also enables the IT staff to concentrate more on the business.

IT professionals should be taking every opportunity to develop skills in new areas by attending conferences like Interop or VMworld, where many vendors hold seminars and provide hands on demos for their latest developments. Ask the vendors to provide lunch and learn seminars on site. Make the vendors earn your business by keeping you informed and educated on the latest technology and business trends. Be involved in industry or professional organizations like IEEE to network and learn about new technologies. Set personal goals and a plan for developing skills that will make you more valuable to your company. IT is changing and change creates new opportunities.

With all the new technologies that are available in the market and the business drivers behind cloud, mobility, big data, and time to market, IT must rethink the skill sets, roles and responsibilities of IT operations. More of the mundane operations tasks can be automated, offloaded to service providers, or serviced in the cloud, freeing your IT staff to focus more on the applications and contributing to business value.

See full list of my top ten trends for 2014 here.

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