Skilled workers key to datacenter growth, advantage
Singapore-based hosting and managed services operator 1-Net first started its operations in 1997 and, over the span of more than a decade, the wholly-owned subsidiary of local media company MediaCorp has grown to become one of the main Internet data center operator in the region.
As a marker for development, its data center has correspondingly grown from a few thousand square feet in land area to the 100,000-square-feet facility it is today as it scales to meet the needs of its customers.
In an interview with ZDNet Asia, the company's managing director Yow Tau Keon revealed that the planning and design of the initial data center took over a year as its team looked around to find a suitable location and decide what features and equipment needed to be included in the facility. This is so that its systems would be resilient, secure, and reliable, he explained.
"Our data center is designed in such a way that our infrastructure, equipment, and system maintenance checks can be carried out without causing interruptions to business-critical systems and operations," Yow added.
Its architects had also played a crucial role in providing the expertise to complement, expand, and complete its virtualized infrastructure design as the company moved from being just a datacenter host to a managed services provider, he noted. They helped in implementing floor loading, suitable power and cooling designs, as well as ensuring a strong IT security framework to protect customer data, he said.
These efforts led to 1-Net becoming the first datacenter company in Singapore to achieve the Business Continuity Management certification for BS25999 (International Standard) and SS540 (Singapore Standard).
The company declined to share more regarding the specifications, design and power and utilities consumption as it regards such information as a competitive advantage.
Recruiting specialized manpower a challenge
But just as he recognized the importance of its datacenter specialists in helping grow and establish 1-Net's presence in the region, Yow admitted recruiting the necessary skilled workers to operate the facility is proving to be a challenge.
From managing the datacenter, including its network, support, and service delivery, to the corporate aspects of the business in terms of sales and marketing, product and business development, and management, these are all areas that need employees with the right skillsets, he noted.
However, it is difficult to find experienced workers that match up to the required skills, which means hired workers may need to eventually go for additional training and certifications, the managing director said.
The skills shortage was highlighted last year, when Singapore Polytechnic unveiled a new data center to equip students with the latest skills in cloud computing. It hoped that by doing so, it can alleviate the shortage of skilled datacenter professionals in the country.
Getting workers equipped, and the corresponding salary hike they will command with extra certification, also means extra costs to the company, he added. And keeping costs low while optimizing its datacenter investments is another challenge highlighted. This is especially so given the bleak economic climate, particularly in Europe, at the moment, Yow said.
On the business side, the executive shared that by moving into areas such as managed services, 1-Net is increasingly seeing demand from customers in different markets and sectors for customized offerings, and this means more time and effort needed on their end.
For instance, banks and financial institutions may have different datacenter requirements and considerations compared to the manufacturing sector, so their services will have to be tailored to respective business needs, he explained.
The company will continue to forge ahead with offering cloud-based services though, noting the benefits these bring to companies. "Cloud has offered the ability to respond quickly to users' application needs in a resource-sharing approach, making it possible to satisfy demand for flexible computing resources on a pooled basis to derive cost savings when there is sufficient number of users and demand for it," the executive said.
As such, 1-Net will be launching its infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) product to help application service providers offload their data storage requirements to third-party operators, he added.