Essential skills required for building a Data Centre


By Manoj Paul, Managing Director, GPX India

Industries across the globe are continually experiencing a disruption with newer technology bringing in tectonic shifts in way businesses are operating, and technology is getting adopted. Consecutively, innovations such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN), cloud enablement, and the hybrid cloud are changing the business landscape, thus changing the nature of jobs and the skill required to do them.

Data centers are facilities that house and process data that form the technological backbone of an economy. With a substantial technical and economic impact, a typical data center can provide several thousand staff-day jobs approximately, only in its construction phase. Every year after the data center becomes operational, statistics suggest that it brings in over 150 direct jobs for a midsize Data Center and several hundred indirect jobs. As most companies create employment for IT engineers, data centers are creating jobs for mechanical and electrical engineers as well.

However, with the growth of data centers, new roles and skill requirements have emerged. There is a strong demand for technical skills; like skills to understand the customers’ business requirements and offer a solution tailored to meet the requirement in the most cost-efficient manner. The technical skill requirement covers knowledge of internet protocols, hardware, network components, facility operations including access and security control systems. The industry is facing a skills shortage, and unless we begin to tackle it now, it is going to get significantly more prominent. Mentioned below is a brief description of the skills that we considered for in potential hires:

Technical Skills

Data center engineers perform various kinds of functions and are responsible for setting up, managing, designing network systems by monitoring systems to keep the data center up and running continuously. The most crucial skills include:

  1. The data center is not just about Data. It is more about electrical and mechanical equipment which ensure a 24×7 availability of power and cooling. That is why, while most companies create jobs for IT engineers, data centers need highly skilled electrical and mechanical engineers. They can play a role in the deployment and then the maintenance of this equipment as well. Data centers are generating high paying jobs for such engineers, especially those with hands-on experience with chillers, generators, UPSes etc. A data center can easily offer 30-50% more than what a mechanical or electrical engineer may otherwise get in some other industry. Significant deployment of heavy equipment like a transformer, generators in data centers has led to many MNC companies setting up factories in India, which is creating jobs. Some of these companies also export to other countries from India.
  2. Cloud: As cloud adoption grows, organisations are now becoming cloud reliant, giving rise to the need for skills to figure methods of adopting a cloud architecture that fits into the data centers. It also involves a study on how infrastructure, platform, and software as a service work; the different benefits and drawbacks to the public, private, and hybrid cloud setups; and any hardware necessary to support the cloud.
  3. Data Security: In current times, data security has become the most critical feature of a data center.  It involves physical practices and virtual technologies that protect the data centers’ physical and technological infrastructures from external and internal threats. A data center security manager is responsible for implementing detailed operations to secure the facility. He/She manages elements of network intelligence, data analysis, and automation functions without any security risks.
  4. Network LAN/ WAN Design: LAN/ WAN engineers are responsible for setting up and ensure the functionality of wide-area and local area networks. Part of their responsibility is to identify potential issues and make changes that would prevent damage from occurring. With the roll-out of data center interconnect networks (DCI) or cloud exchange services by data centers, there is a demand for special skill sets. IP skill sets have also become critical with the need of BGP configurations at  layer 2 and even layer 3, and direct peering and other forms of peering required for internet exchanges present inside the data centers. This gives rise to a requirement of IT professionals with an in-depth understanding of client network architecture to provide a suitable solution with minimum complexity.
  5. Cabling: While the beginnings of wireless technologies are already here, we’re far from getting rid of all cables in data centers. Poor cable management can lead to unsafe and chaotic environments. Many cables require proper cable management which highlights the importance of hiring people capable of handling them. With many customers demanding 100G bandwidth on one single pair of fibre, unique skill sets are needed to ensure the fibre fusion and terminations are correctly done to provide the desired performance. Today, only 10% of cabling in a data center uses copper cables. So, technicians with copper cabling backgrounds have to upgrade their skills to support fibre installation.
  6. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: Disaster recovery operations include multiple servers, networking, backup, and related activities. Thus a crisis or impact management coordinator would be required to understand networks, recovery tactics, server and OS structures, security measures, and databases as well as identify, strategise, implement and test solutions and strategies to recover operations.

Business skills involve understanding the way the industry functions, maintaining flexibility with new developments, associations with other teams and vendors to ensure SLA management, and well-maintained customer relations to ensure efficient operations and growth of the data center.

With the constant advancement in technology, data centers are continually evolving to meet both industries as well as customer standards with a wide array of disciplines like security, sustainability, efficiency, etc. Career progression is always an upward graph. The data center sector also boasts of the lowest unemployment rates – and hence working in a data center has become the right choice in careers today.


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