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Data centres: what are the new skill sets?

Commodity technology = commodity staff?

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Tony LockTony Lock
Programme Director, Freeform Dynamics

It is correct that many new server and, especially, server virtualisation systems offer the ability to manage systems far more dynamically than ever before. Indeed, it is fair to say that until now the primary mandate adopted by most IT organisations has been "if it is not broken, leave it alone". The capabilities inherent in many systems to move workloads around very quickly or to create and take down virtual servers and their associated workloads in a matter of minutes open the door to new operational modes.

At the heart of the matter is the question of server resource allocation and how to obtain "optimal" benefits from the systems at hand. From a skills perspective there is still the need to be able to monitor and manage the complex systems at all levels of their operations. But the very idea of being able to alter the configurations of systems as a routine part of standard operations will eventually demand that new skills, or at the least operational procedures to be put in place.

Chief amongst these will be some way of selecting what proportion of available resources is allocated to each application in the dynamic infrastructure. Clearly if the infrastructure has more resources than can be consumed under any likely workload scenario, there will not be too many demand clashes to handle.

But if - as is likely - organisations seek to limit the overall size, and hence cost, of the IT infrastructure, there will be times when someone will need to decide how constrained resources are allocated. This will require good "vision" of the likely business consequences of such choices.

Thus the IT department will need to possess the skills and monitoring tools to make such judgments, or put some form of automated policy prioritisation processes in place. Getting hold of either of these will require no small measure of communication and diplomatic skills as well as a good handle on business reporting systems.

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