(Note: This is the first of a two-part series that explores the changes in the digital era data center and the training needed to learn new skills to operate and manage it.)

No longer an invisible function, the next-generation data center has evolved into the foundation for business transformation. Data centers that analyze, simplify, automate, and protect data are the wave of the future. This "ASAP" data center is designed to deliver consistent policy across hybrid deployments built with data center networking, security, converged infrastructure, and software-defined solutions.

The next-generation data center will have a big impact on the future of data center infrastructure professionals. If you break out of your silos, embrace change, and develop new skills, you’ll be rewarded.

An enterprise-class data center is key to supporting new business models involving IoT, big data, and the modernizing of existing business-critical applications. With these trends hyper-connecting people, devices, and machines, networking, computational capabilities, and storage are all on the rise. All of these trends are converging in the next-generation data center.

Continuous delivery of business-critical and business transformation initiatives rely on a modern data center infrastructure and network. New technologies such as software integrated with hardware and software-defined networking (SDN) also raise the need for investments in data centers that can handle the growth of data, servers, and restrictions on space.

At the Helm of the Next-Generation Data Center, Part 1 The AFCOM 2015 State of the Data Center Survey found that 50 percent of those polled plan data center upgrades, and 45 percent plan new data centers. Investments in data centers are growing at a 5.8 percent compound annual rate higher than before and will rise to $16 billion, according to IDC’s Worldwide Datacenter Network Forecast, 2015-2019.

As organizations update their data centers with the latest technology, there are other changes too. They are consolidating smaller data centers into massive centers that are growing ever larger. These bigger centers have 10-GB to 100-GB high-bandwidth capacity to run the cloud and a wide range of other digital technologies.

IDC also predicts that, by 2018, 60 percent of companies will rely on agile data centers that are highly automated to boost efficiency and tie data center investments to business value.

Next-Generation Data Centers Need New Skills

Data center technologies have evolved significantly, and continue to do so. While deep product and technical knowledge is needed, IT professionals focused on data center are also expected to have depth and breadth with multiple technologies that enable the data center for IT-as-a-service agile infrastructure.

The ASAP data center needs a lot more IT professionals with these new skills. Between 2014 and 2024, the jobs of network and systems administrators and network architects will grow 8 percent to 9 percent on a compounded basis annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the 2015 AFCOM State of the Data Center Survey, 71 percent of those polled said they plan to increase investments in data center professionals by 2018. One-third reported higher personnel costs due to new training and certification requirements.

Skills for the agile data center have been affected by huge changes in technologies. This trend continues with unified computing, policy-driven infrastructure, and hyper-converged infrastructure.

Data center professionals will be expected to cover a much broader area of knowledge and expertise. A few specialists will remain, but more and more staff will be required to possess a wide range of skills to handle the agile data center.

Demand for Next-Gen Data Center Pros

Demand for IT professionals with agile data center skills is growing quickly. Incorporating training and certifications for the new data center can be a worthy investment in your career. Not only does this increase skills and tech knowledge, but it also demonstrates to potential employers that you can plan, implement, and run an ASAP data center that supports business value efforts.

Hiring managers look for job candidates with these certifications. Managers want a workforce with the skills to run data centers that make their organizations more agile and high-impact. The good news is that most organizations are not only supportive, but are also increasing budgets for the skills enhancement of their employees.

The second part of this series tomorrow explores three specific certifications that Cisco has designed just for the next-generation data center. It also looks at the advantages these certifications offer.

Questions or feedback? We look forward to your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about Cisco’s Data Center certification offerings, please visit the following pages here on the Cisco Learning Network:


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Karen Louie is a product marketing manager at Learning@Cisco focusing on data center training and certification. Her charter is to help ensure that CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE Data Center professionals gain the skills necessary to operate data centers efficiently. To this role she brings IT services expertise in the areas of enterprise management and operating environments, the cloud, systems integration, and enterprise software services.