Virtualization: Yet Another IT Skills Gap

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Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post about how companies' insatiable appetite for new infrastructure is feeding a high demand for data center specialists. Of course, there's generally a strong correlation between interest in new technologies and companies scrambling to find staff versed in them, as IT Business Edge's Loraine Lawson points out in her usual succint fashion in a post addressing the SOA skills shortage.


So it's not surprising that soaring demand for data centers crossed with an intense interest in virtualization is leading companies to conclude that, hey, they may need to staff up.


The proof is in the job listings. The Dice technology job site now contains some 1,500 listings for folks with VMWare experience, up from just a few hundred last year, according to a Computerworld article. An SVP of marketing and customer support at Dice tells Computerworld he expects to see up to 40 percent more of these kinds of listings within the next year.


Systems administrators willing to tackle virtualization basics initially brought it into the enterprise, says Forrester Research analyst Robert Whiteley, but companies are now seeking more sophisticated skills as virtualization expands into new areas such as as the desktop. Companies tell Forrester they are using contractors and outsourcing providers, as well as training internal staff, to address the skills gap.


An interesting gotcha, highlighted as one of seven side effects of sloppy virtualization in a Network World article, is that virtualization will create a broader need for new skills than companies may realize. For instance, notes the article, help desk operators may find themselves taking calls from folks needing assistance with virtual PCs.


Though these and other articles mention the skills gap, I haven't encountered any with ideas on how to address it. Now, this is frustrating to say the least. As Loraine wrote in her blog post:

Frankly, it seems like people are more interested in pronouncing there's a skills shortage gap than in offering solutions.

The good news is, Loraine offers some suggestions for SOA skills building that I think apply just as well to virtualization.

  • Start small so your internal staff can make mistakes and learn.
  • Get training through conferences, certification, books and possibly vendors.
  • Hire a mentor.
  • Pool resources, preferably in a center of excellence.

Vendors are aware of the skills gap, of course. A potential drawback in seeking vendor training, as Loraine writes, is getting locked into one way of approaching a technology. Still, vendor training can be valuable. So it's worth noting that Microsoft is expanding its certifications to include virtualization. It already has one virtualization exam in beta, reports InfoWorld blogger David Marshall.