'Relatively Steady State for Server Support Positions'

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Despite all the hype about virtualization and cloud computing, the "State of the Data Center" study released by AFCOM, an association for data center managers, finds there are more physical servers than ever to manage.


With the amount of data to be managed growing by about 20 percent a year, AFCOM CEO Jill Yaoz says that without virtualization and cloud computing, things in the data center would be worse.


But AFCOM also recently reported that as workloads have increased staffing levels have not kept pace. It found trend lines in staffing pretty evenly split, with 37 percent of respondents reporting fewer staff vs. the same number (28.6 percent) and more staff (34.4 percent).


Meanwhile, Computer Economics' study "Server Support Staffing Ratios" found a slight increase in data center staff over the past four years. As an average percentage of total IT staff, server support personnel made up 12.2 percent in 2007 and 13.2 percent in 2010. It reports a jump in the percentage of systems administrators, systems programmers and engineers in 2010. Its summary says:

These IT workers were at the front of the line when IT organizations began adding staff after actively trimming head count the previous two years. ...
What this means is that systems administrators have become more productive, and IT organizations have used that rising productivity to absorb more computing power rather than thin the ranks of system administrators. The net result is a relatively steady state for server support positions.

It also reports fewer computer operators and production control personnel along with the decline in use of mainframes and rise of automation. This could be a chicken-and-egg situation, as Mike Vizard at CTO Edge reports the threat of a skills shortage in the data center. He says companies could be forced to rely on automation and managed services because they can't find people trained on the new converged server, storage and network architectures.