Nine Ways IT Pros Can Stay Relevant in a COVID-Accelerated World

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Click to learn more about author Brad King.

COVID-19 has dramatically increased the pace of digital transformation in the enterprise. Amid a headlong rush to cloud architectures, remote work, and distributed IT, we look at nine ways IT pros can remain relevant — and continue to deliver business value — during this profound transition in the information technology world.

It’s no secret that the traditional, localized data center is no longer the essential infrastructure it once was. With the rise of public cloud and modern, distributed applications, the agility, flexibility, and simple scale-out capabilities of cloud-model infrastructure has changed expectations of IT for good. IT leaders understand they’ll need not just to modernize their data centers to keep up but to decide how and where on-premises infrastructure — and in-house IT staff — remain relevant to an organization’s data challenges.

These aren’t new trends, but the rapid digitalization that has accompanied COVID-19 has made IT modernization an urgent priority. In the context of this new reality, traditional data center roles unavoidably come into question. What happens to storage and virtualization specialists, for instance, when modern infrastructure requires only a few IT generalists to manage? Or when self-service cloud computing alternatives are available at a lower cost? Just as the data center needs to modernize and reconsider its role, IT pros must seize the opportunity to update their skill sets in order to stay relevant in the future.

Powering the Data-Driven Enterprise

Let’s step back for just a moment. Data, as many have noted, is now a critical business asset. For an organization to capitalize on the potential of that data, it needs to be efficiently served, monitored, backed up, and secured. From production to test/dev to analytics and more, enterprise data must be accessible and available wherever it’s needed across an increasingly multi-cloud environment.

At the same time, data volumes have been skyrocketing, presenting organizations with myriad IT challenges. To cope, enterprises need to accelerate their transformations to fast and efficient distributed IT. That entails a shift from traditional data center architectures to more agile public and private cloud resources. In this new paradigm, Gartner sees IT managers freely choosing from among on-demand private and public cloud computing and storage resources. Those choices are now based on workload need — and driven by a focus on services rather than specific infrastructure types. That focus, in turn, is enabled by new levels of automation and predictive analytics to optimize private cloud resources, alongside advanced cloud management software to maximize public cloud efficiency.

Both the C-suite and IT admins expect significant changes in staffing as a result of digital transformation — but here’s where it gets interesting. Among IT departments, the expectation is that modern, self-configuring, self-managing infrastructure will mean that many data center specialists are no longer necessary and that job loss in traditional data center roles must follow. At the same time, CIOs are encountering staffing shortages in the new model of IT: Management needs IT pros who understand the new hybrid processes and technologies, but they’re having a hard time finding them.

Now’s the Time to Up Your Game

Modern, distributed IT is all about delivering services across clouds. Savvy IT pros will recognize an opportunity to move “up the stack” to more general Data Management positions. The key point: Expertise in managing and serving diverse datasets and distributed infrastructure now translates into driving business value. Along the road to digital transformation, here are nine critical IT skills that can help keep you relevant in a changing enterprise:

1. Workloads and Workload Placement: For maximum efficiency and productivity, organizations need expertise in consolidating and powering distributed workloads across hybrid clouds.

2. Cloud-Model Services Delivery: Businesses need to understand how to deliver on-demand IT services wherever their workforce and customers are.

3. Cloud Management: In harnessing the power of multiple clouds, organizations need cloud workload monitoring and cost-control expertise.

4. Edge and IoT: Enterprises will increasingly need expertise in edge and IoT deployments, including optimizing data processing and storage between edge, cloud, and core.

5. Ongoing IT Innovation: Organizations need an in-house understanding of diverse and rapidly evolving private and public cloud infrastructures.

6. On-Premises vs. Co-Location: Businesses with on-prem infrastructure requirements need to understand how and where co-location may benefit them.

7. Privacy and Compliance: Enterprises need to understand privacy and regulatory compliance requirements across multiple clouds and numerous geographies.

8. Data Protection: Organizations need expertise in critical data protection operations and in secondary use cases such as DevOps, analytics, and AI.

9. Data Security: The increasing complexity of distributed environments has made enterprise data security inherently more difficult but no less mandatory.

Tools to Help You Get the Job Done

In developing multi-cloud infrastructure expertise, hybrid complexity and data siloing are constant concerns, so it’s helpful to understand which cross-platform, cloud-model technologies can empower you. Look for solutions that deliver agility and simplicity by seamlessly bridging clouds, serving data, and powering every app — that’s the ultimate way to keep you and your data services relevant.

In looking at such unifying technologies, consider object-based storage with REST APIs, the lingua-franca of the cloud. As the fastest-growing data type, object storage underpins cloud-native apps and is ideally suited to hybrid cloud environments. It’s simultaneously capable of delivering large-scale, enterprise-grade storage on-prem and in the cloud (thanks to unified Data Management) and powering the enterprise edge (ditto WAN-friendly protocols). In addition, Rest APIs and fine-grained identity control make ubiquitous access simple while delivering security. These are huge advantages for IT pros.

In closing, let’s see how object storage actually drives digital transformation in the real world. Here’s an example: The National Library of Scotland, with a fast-growing collection of more than 31 million items, needed a modern storage strategy. They turned to object storage to keep three copies of everything, two in data centers and one in the cloud. With robust data integrity, linear scale, and a single interface for all their data, the Library not only feels confident in adding new use cases to the platform, but they’re also even considering offering their solution as a service to other organizations — which just underscores the rising demand for object storage solutions generally.

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