451 Research finds companies maintaining data center capacity in the cloud era, but facing skills shortage.
Despite steady adoption of public cloud services, organizations continue to invest in their on-premises IT infrastructure and the people who run it, according to a new report from 451 Research.
The firm's latest "Voice of the Enterprise: Datacenter Transformation" study found that organizations are maintaining healthy capacity in their on-premises data centers and have no plans to cut back on the staff assigned to data center and facility operations. Almost 60% of the nearly 700 IT decision makers surveyed by the firm said they have enough data center floor space and power capacity to last at least five years.
Even though many companies expect the total number of IT staffers to decline over the next year, most expect the number of employees dedicated to data center and facilities will stay the same or increase, according to 451 Research.
The reason for the continued data center investment, cited by 63% of those polled, was fairly generic: business growth. Christian Perry, research manager and lead analyst of the report, said analysts dove a little deeper. As it turns out, companies are finding that keeping workloads long term on public cloud services isn't all that cost effective.
Regardless of the type of workload in the cloud – ERP, communications, or CRM for example – or size of the company, when an organization expands a workload by adding new licenses, seats, or functions, the cost over time winds up close to what it would cost to keep the workload on-premises, Perry said. Costs include opex and capex for IT infrastructure – servers, storage and networking – as well as the facilities that contain it.
"It still is dirt cheap to go to the cloud, but to stay in the cloud, that’s a whole other story," he told me in a phone interview.
While some companies manage their cloud costs well, unexpected growth, a massive new project or a new division coming online can make cloud costs unwieldy, Perry said.
Another factor that's playing into the continued data center investment is the "cloudification" of on-premises IT infrastructure. Converged infrastructure has enabled companies to reach greater levels of agility, flexibility, and cost control, Perry said, adding that hyperconverged infrastructure boosts that trend.
Data center skills shortage
While organizations continue to invest their on-premises IT infrastructure and facilities, they're running into staffing challenges, 451 Research found. Twenty-nine percent face a skills shortage when trying to find qualified data center and facilities personnel, Perry said.
As companies are shifting away from traditional IT architectures to converged and hyperconverged infrastructure, demand for IT generalists has grown, he said. "Specialists are still critical in on-prem environments, but we've definitely seen the rise of the generalist…There's a lot of training going on internally in organizations to bring their specialists to a generalist level."
Of the 29% facing staffing challenges, a majority (60%) are focused on training existing staff to fill the gaps. Those attending the training tend to be server and storage administrators, 451 Research found. "There's a certain sense of fear that they're going to become siloed and potentially irrelevant," Perry said. "At the same time, there's a lot of excitement about these newer architectures and software-defined technologies."
Companies cited a big skills gap in the areas of virtualization and containers, technologies companies view as transformative to their on-premises infrastructure, he said. They're also key technologies to facilitate the continued enterprise focus on data center consolidation.
"The jump in cloud has had an impact on IT staffing overall," Perry said. "A lot of cloud service providers have scooped up a ton of good IT talent. That's not just Tier 1 cloud providers, but also Tier 2…They're pulling away skilled IT staff and leaving gaps for on-prem."
A separate 451 Research report that looked into enterprise server and converged infrastructure trends found that VM administration was the top skill enterprises have trouble finding. A third of organizations reported a networking skills gap.