5 recession-proof IT skills

The enterprise data center has become the corporate center of attention. If you want in, here are the skills you need to have:

1. Virtualization.
A foundational technology for state-of-the-art IT infrastructures, virtualization skills almost go without saying.

Rick King, CTO at Thomson Reuters, Legal, in Eagan, Minn., puts it this way: “Today people who have spent a lot of time with virtualization technologies can pretty much work any place they want — and that will be true for some period of time, until almost all data centers are running almost everything in a virtual environment.”

2. Services management.
As enterprises shift into the use of public or private cloud service providers, data center personnel need to ratchet up their service management skills, says John Ryan, the global portfolio executive responsible for platform and end user services at technology consulting firm CSC.

“It’s no longer enough to know how to manage the hypervisor and workloads moving across the infrastructure. People have to shift their thinking into an environment where capacity and demand management come together. They have to be skilled in services management,” he explains.

Joanne Kossuth, vice president of operations and CIO for Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., agrees. “Things like software and infrastructure as a service already exist, and some are more highly adopted than others. But five years down the line, it really will be about a combination of these things and data center folks are going to manage all that.”

3. Unified computing.
“The trend today, as it will for the next three to five years, will be unified computing – look at Cisco with its Unified Computing System, HP with BladeSystem Matrix and IBM with its cloud computing strategy,” says Rockwell Bonecutter, data center technology and operations lead for North America at Accenture, a technology services consulting company. “The natural assumption you can derive from that is that this will be the hot button for new skills.”

As such, data center personnel of every ilk must get up to speed on unified compute concepts, principles and architecture, he says. As a result, we’ll have data centers staffed by people who understand how to deliver business value and services rather than only knowing how to add more processing power or storage, for example.

4. Green IT.
Going green is a corporate mandate the world over, and that leaves many IT organizations deciding whether they need a point person for green efforts across the data center, King says. “This professional would focus on deploying green technologies — as well as steering away from deployment of non-green technologies. Because green technologies often improve operational efficiencies, such people would actually pay for themselves over and over again,” he adds.

5. Resource management.
Along the same lines, the ability to finesse conversations between IT and facilities is becoming a critical skill in the data center, says David Cappuccio, managing vice president and chief of research for the infrastructure teams at Gartner. “Building a capacity plan when you don’t take into account energy consumption and heat dissipation is a plan in a vacuum,” he adds. “You need somebody on staff who can actually track these things, talk a facilities language and translate it back to IT.” These skills are sometimes packaged in a position called resource manager or facilities liaison, Cappuccio says.

At Citigroup, they’re wrapped up into a position called data center planning and critical systems engineer, says Jim Carney, executive vice president of data center planning for the New York-based global financial services firm.

In fact, Carney says, “No data center manager I would ever hire could be blind to the facilities side of the business because it’s so integral to their uptime.”