Infrastructure Talent Needs for Cutting-Edge Data Centers

Part 2: Insights from industry expert Peter Kazella

In the second of our two-part blog series with industry expert Peter Kazella of Pkaza, a 12-year Data Center Facilities recruiter, we discuss what it takes to go live with a newly built data center and what to look out for when building your team in an ultra-tight market. 

As more data centers are getting constructed and going online, what staffing needs contribute to going live?

Having the right team on board including partnering with the right vendors is crucial as you need a team who is constantly staying current as new technology is introduced.

Right now for Pkaza, one of our highest demand jobs is that of the Commissioning Agent. It is their job to test the many mechanical (HVAC), electrical, and building controls systems of the data center to make sure they are operating to specs before the data center goes live. Many data center operators (i.e. end users), will contract third party commissioning firms with electrical, mechanical, and controls engineering expertise to test and inspect these systems to make sure they operate and perform to spec. before they flip the “On” switch.

They will test the backup power system equipment like generators and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS’s) as well as the components that make up the massive cooling systems like the computer room air conditioning units (CRAC), chillers and cooling towers.

Many of these professionals are degreed mechanical and electrical engineers, but don’t have to be.

Very bright and experienced power and cooling technicians with expertise in equipment repair and maintenance are very good candidates for these rolls. Military veterans from the Navy’s Nuclear Engineering program (EMN’s, ETN’s and MMN’s are the most sought after) or any other branch that supports power generation are typically solid candidates post active duty.

Their background in a critical environment that revolves around stringent operational procedures is a good match for these roles. Besides the expertise that is needed for this job, a large amount of travel is required for this role which makes it a challenge to find the right people.

Many data centers will also start to hire their facility operations teams during this process. These are the managers and critical facilities technicians that will be monitoring and maintaining the equipment (electrical, mechanical, and controls) once the data center is up and running.

By observing the commissioning process, these technicians will have a deeper understanding of the procedures needed to keep the equipment running and what to do in the unlikely event of equipment failure. These techs are also able to give suggestions on equipment if they observe issues in the initial startup phase. They create the MOPs and SOPs to maintain and operate the equipment which is a very important part of being a commissioning agent as well.

What potential challenges and opportunities exist for data centers looking to hire as their infrastructure modernizes?

Having the right team on board including partnering with the right vendors is crucial as you need a team who is constantly staying current as new technology is introduced.

The data center industry has a shortage of specialized training / education programs that focuses on the data center market. Over the last 15 years or so, many training and educational programs have been developed to offer content with a focus on data center management. Some examples are The Marist College Institute for Data Center Professionals (IDCP) that was founded in 2004 and offers a college-level accredited education designed specifically for those who wish to advance their data center careers. It’s a 100% online learning program and includes important areas like cybersecurity and data center infrastructure. Another recognized program is Uptime Institute’s Accredited Tier Design program for licensed professional engineers. We also like what we are seeing with a brand new data center educational program called CMCO (Certified Mission Critical Operator). This is the core curriculum being used at North Virginia Community College and other community colleges and universities. This new degreed program offering is called Engineering Technology: Data Center Operations Specialization.

Attending data center industry events like DCD, AFCOM’s Data Center World or 7×24 Exchange Conference is also a great way to stay current with new technology that is constantly evolving. These events offer the opportunity to discuss changes in the industry with peers and the chance to see firsthand, the new technologies developed by manufacturers that support our industry. Otherwise, the opportunity exists with companies such as Pkaza that specialize in placing these types of data center experts with vendors and colocation providers for both full time or consulting for the critical facilities industry.

Conclusion

A big thank you again to Peter Kazella for all his insight on current trends and keeping us informed on what look for in the future. At Panduit, we know that redundancy in electrical power components and cooling backups are the core of reliability for data center. For more information about improving your operation through wireless monitoring, check out our white paper, Improved Reliability Through Wireless Monitoring and Control.

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