Does a software-defined datacenter mean changes in staff roles?

Catbird's Randal Asay believes that the changing nature of the datacenter - moving from physical to virtual - means that IT and facilities roles must change too.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

Randal Asay, Catbird's Chief Technology Officer, in a recent article (see Shifting Roles in the SDDC at Catbird's website), points out that the shift from a focus on physical systems, storage, networks, and clients to a virtual, software-defined environment should be implemented hand in hand with a refined staff organization. The changes he suggests aren't really new, however. Many in the industry believe that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of a business organization-based structure and that we need to move back towards a function-based structure.

Asay starts off by pointing out that:

Changes in data center architecture have also led to shifting roles within the organization. The software-defined data center and SDN present an opportunity for existing IT personnel to embrace change and expand their portfolio. For IT to function efficiently, System, Network, and Security teams should recognize that they have the opportunity to take on a larger scope, as the days of IT silos are over.

While this is certainly true, many organizations cling to a business unit-centric staffing structure. This means that each business unit might have its own IT organization with functions that mirror the structure that other business units have. Since each separate organization is likely to be organized to manage the applications, tools, application frameworks, databases, networks and storage for their own applications, it's likely that they duplicate staff functions and skill sets.

Asay suggests the following:

In converged data centers, traditional operations and hypervisor administration integrates with network and security management, necessitating a workflow shift. The focus has turned away from workflow process management towards forward-looking development, supporting system enhancements and improvements. Historically, IT organizations have had multi-level approval processes for change control within the network topology and dedicated resources to tune devices or validate whether incidents are false positives. Applications have been based on the limitations of the network.

In essence, Asay is suggesting that an organization based upon silos is likely to be inefficient, slow to respond to performance anomalies or outages that cross business units or functions.

Asay goes on to suggest that the adoption of software-defined datacenters and their software defined networks require turning the traditional focus on its head. He suggests that the new environments ability to "institute predefined capabilities based on rules and execute them automatically, the network can now be designed according to the needs of the applications." This means, in his view, that "IT can spend less time on operations and more time building highly efficient applications. IT personnel can also contribute more to the organization by expanding their roles and becoming leaders in converged infrastructure administration."

Asay suggests a straightforward approach to this change. The first step is to determine what skills the organization's staff already have. The next step is to determine what skills are needed to effectively operate the new datacenter. Training and cross-training staff members comes next.

While Asay's suggestions really aren't new, they are certainly reasonable and worth considering.

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