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The data centre skill shortage

Every few months we see a headline, like this one, in the technical press, and the article is usually written by a training company keen to point out said shortage.

So when I saw a similar headline recently, but headlined by Google, Microsoft and Uber it caught my eye. The spokesman for Microsoft mentioned the issue of engineers trying to tackle ‘non-linear’ problems and one presumes from the comment that engineers are not being particularly successful at that enterprise.

By non-linear he means the concepts of crossing boundaries, for example, from understanding the demands of a server in terms of power then cooling and physical space plus cabling interconnection. From that we have the demands of the whole building in terms of power, HVAC, fire detection, fire suppression, BMS/DCIM, access control, security etc.

It’s all very well having teams of specialists but if the specialists don’t know how to fit the pieces together then the engine’s not going to work.

The problems can be made linear e.g. server needs electricity, UPS supplies power, HVAC takes away resultant heat, but for this to work smoothly three different disciplines have to have a basic concept of how things relate to each other.

In the smaller enterprise data centre we usually see a brick wall between IT and facilities management, and in the large colocation data centre we see disciplines that seem unaware of each other’s existence.

This is especially pronounced in fire engineering where we promote the use of a cause and effect algorithm so if the fire detection is activated everybody knows what will happen next, e.g. ventilation off, UPS off (or on) A.C off etc. But in our experience nobody knows what will happen if the fire alarm goes off because it crosses too many interdisciplinary boundaries.

Specialism is fine, and essential, but without an holistic view of how all the things fit together then problems are bound to arise.

Capitoline’s courses are designed to provide this holistic view from the point of view of Data Centre Operations Manager, the Data Centre Technician or the Data Centre Designer.