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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Data Center Infrastructure Trends & Talent Needs

Part 1: Insights from industry expert Peter Kazella

As you modernize, upgrade, and invest in your data center, your team needs skilled technicians and leaders if you want to take full advantage of the new trends and technology available to you. Hiring and retaining people who have the skills and experience to keep pace with the evolution of technology is crucial.

We spoke with industry expert Peter Kazella of Pkaza, a twelve-year veteran Data Center Facilities recruiter, to learn about the most relevant opportunities and challenges on the horizon in data center solutions. In the first of a two-part blog series, we discuss recent innovations, the shortage of specialized talent, and how to find the best people for your data center.

Pkaza’s recruiting niche is staffing for the mission critical facilities market. Pkaza has a focus on the facilities side as it pertains to the power and cooling systems within the data center. This includes engineering design, commissioning, construction, field service, as well as facilities operations of these critical environments that “allows the IT side to operate ceaselessly without experiencing any type of outage.”

Let’s dive into our recent Q&A:

What kind of infrastructure innovations are you seeing your data center clients moving toward?

First off, thank you for the opportunity to discuss hiring needs in the data center industry.

We have been seeing a steady movement of enterprise users migrating towards the colocation / cloud market as the cost of maintaining their data center continues to rise and keeping up with changing technologies is getting more challenging and expensive. It’s easier for companies to realize these technical advances through a data center colocation provider.

A colocations data center is typically able to implement these innovations since their expertise is providing uninterruptible power and cooling and the network infrastructure to send and receive data. Whereas in the enterprise market (companies that own the data center, but the data center is not their primary business), implementing new technologies might be harder to gain traction as the data center supports the primary business of that company. We are also seeing a big play on hyperscale, custom modular builds, with BMS (building management systems) controls taking a bigger part in optimizing cooling and power efficiency.

Describe why you’re seeing an increase in data centers being constructed and going online, yet you’re seeing a shortage of available talent.

The short answer is a supply and demand issue in that our data center clients require professionals that have deep experience with constructing these critical facilities. Building a data center is very unique because of the enormous amount of electrical and cooling equipment that is installed.

This requires someone with expert MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) experience and project experience in the 50-500 million dollar range. Since the market requires such specialized talent, where the talent pool is low, it has created a talent vacuum which has driven up the salary levels for candidates in this market.

Most companies realize this and still have trouble sourcing talent since actually finding these candidates, regardless if you are open to paying more, is still hard. This is obviously a good thing if you are a recruiter in my shoes, as this issue keeps my company extremely busy.

You help hire for a variety of data center positions, ranging from field service, CF operations, construction, commissioning, etc. What are some of the infrastructure pain points leading to these hires? What new skills do you look for in new hires?

One of the biggest challenges that the data center industry has to deal with is controlling and monitoring these critical facilities to ensure continuous reliability at a competitive price point. The equipment needed to run the data centers is expensive and products tend not to communicate with each other which is why controls and BMS / BAS Systems are increasingly sought after.

There is not “ERP” or Enterprise Software available that allows companies to monitor and control all their equipment on a single platform as is available on the IT side with products such as SAP – hence the push for Controls and Automation hiring.

Our clients are hiring people with BAS (Building Automation System) or EPMS (Electrical Power Management Systems) expertise. When optimized, these systems can significantly bring down the cost of powering the building. Any cost savings found will contribute to a company’s bottom line.

Conclusion

Panduit would like to thank Peter for taking the time to chat with us and our readers, and to help us see beyond the horizon of this evolving industry. To learn more about the use of both on-premises and hosted data centers, check out our white paper, Optimizing Infrastructure for Hybrid Data Center Strategies.

There’s certainly a lot to consider when finding the right talent for your growing business, and we hope that Peter’s insights helped you to better understand what your next move should be. Join us next time with Peter when we discuss what it takes to go live and new opportunities and challenges.

Thanks for checking out our new expert Q&A series. Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook or sign up for Panduit’s mailing list to get alerted when our next conversation with an expert goes live.

The Floating Cloud Trend

For financial services institutions, the competition to gain competitive advantage is fierce. Many factors can set you apart from the pack: a few microseconds of advantage in a digital trade; your network uptime; the responsiveness of your customer service; or the ability to quickly and rapidly scale operations to meet market demand.

These are also some of the reasons why financial services firms are shifting to a hybrid IT model, and moving away from solely operating on-premise infrastructure. The new model incorporates on-premise systems along with colocated facilities, private cloud and public and multi-cloud services.

Organizations that have this combination available can select the most appropriate architecture for each individual workload, based on cost, speed, latency, performance and other factors.


Network evaluation

As an industry, financial services has a reputation of being risk averse when it comes to IT, and for good reasons. In a highly-regulated industry where privacy and security are non-negotiable, financial services businesses have historically operated their core applications in-house, on-premise or at a colocation environment. It meant they could implement end-to-end security and retain a high level of control over their data and applications.

However, competitive pressure from digitally-transformed rivals, or cloud-centric start-ups, drove many organizations to transfer certain workloads to the cloud. It offered new advantages and a way to extend the functionality of legacy IT and evolve the company’s network architecture.

More recently however, financial services businesses have evolved further, pursuing a more diverse hybrid IT strategy. Yugal Joshi, Practice Director at Everest Group, says, “Our research indicates that 77% of enterprises are actively pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy, with 1 in 3 migrating their production workloads to the cloud.”

As a result, the selective deployment of applications within cloud, colocation or on-premise environments signals a shift toward a more rounded and mature approach to IT, rather than a one-size-fits-all, “cloud or bust” strategy.


Hybrid advantages

Hybrid IT infrastructure delivers the best of all worlds: secure and low latency on-premise networking for the workloads that require it; the ability to scale or boost processing for applications that need the flexibility of cloud; and the operational cost advantages and manageability of colocation facilities.

Hybrid cloud is also proving to be an effective platform for running particular data-centric applications, such as blockchain, AI and machine learning, and big data and analytics solutions where data scientists run sophisticated queries on big datasets.

In addition, cloud infrastructure offers automated API-driven processes, enabling end users to request, configure and manage a range of resources and services themselves, with minimal input from IT. This could be anything from database and storage provisioning to AI and analytics on demand.

Furthermore, hybrid cloud adoption fosters innovation, empowering firms to reach beyond geographical, industry and organizational barriers. IBM Research Director, Lynn Kesterson-Townes, says that over 75% of bankers surveyed for IBM’s Tailoring Hybrid Cloud for Banking report said their most successful cloud initiatives had already achieved inroads into new industries; new revenue streams, and expansion of their product or services portfolio.

In its report, IBM cites a leading Australasian bank, which identified customer experience as a priority focus area. It deployed a hybrid cloud solution to reduce time to market and delivered an enhanced mobile experience to its customers in just 12 weeks.

Lastly, hybrid cloud offers cost savings, which is another important driver behind the trend. Research has found that financial services firms gain greater cost flexibility with hybrid cloud by shifting fixed to variable expenses. Public cloud services also enable businesses to operate workloads that require massive data, storage and processing, on a pay-as-you-go basis, instead of having to invest in their own data center technology.

For these reasons, a traditionally risk averse industry has calculated the value of evolving its networking architecture, and is reaping the rewards of a hybrid IT infrastructure.

Partnerships with technology experts like Panduit are an important part of the puzzle. We work closely with our clients, offering our expertise to help them build a flexible, scalable and secure hybrid platform that can encompass on-premise, colocated and public cloud design. Our ability to support your transition into a hybrid IT model will enable you to future-proof your tomorrow, today.