In a recent survey by Uptime Institute, one of the key findings showed that data center IT skill shortages will intensify as most operators continue to struggle with staffing issues. The primary driver cited is an aging worker pool and the overwhelming male makeup of this sector.
Other factors contributing to skill shortages include a lack of:
- Hybrid IT skills
- New skills like managing SLAs for off-premise workloads
- Software skills with adoption of software-defined technologies
- Fewer young men and women entering the field
How is this affecting branch office networks?
The data center IT skill set shortage is spilling over from the data center to the management and administration of branch office infrastructure. The two go hand in hand as most skills are leveraged across both areas; branch office networks are merely a “miniature architecture” of the data center network. Branch office networks typically include switches, routers, WAN optimization appliances, firewalls, and other networking gear that all require similar IT knowledge and skills as the data center.
As enterprises embrace digital transformation initiative and leverage a cloud-first strategy to accelerate the transformation, new and hybrid IT skills are fast becoming critical to success.
Can SD-WAN alleviate IT skill shortages?
A Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) architecture was designed from the ground up to support cloud-first initiatives. Some of the more advanced offerings, such as the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect™ SD-WAN edge platform, were also designed to be ‘business-driven’. With a business-first networking model, the network enables the business, rather than the business conforming to the constraints of the network. Instead of being a constraint, the WAN is a business accelerant that is fully automated and continuous, giving every application the resources it truly needs, while delivering 10x the bandwidth for the same budget. A business-first networking model ultimately delivers the highest quality of experience to users and IT. This means increased productivity, satisfaction and simplicity!
Let’s look closer at the top three IT skill shortages and how SD-WAN can bridge the gap:
1. Hybrid-IT Skills
As more organizations embrace a cloud-first model, IT must support applications running on-premise and in public clouds as well as SaaS applications and IaaS services. IT has full control of on-premise infrastructure and is fully familiar with the tools to manage it. For public clouds, IT must adhere to the cloud providers’ offerings and constraints. This challenge is amplified if the organization embraces multiple cloud providers.
How can SD-WAN help?
- Provides a holistic view and centralized orchestration and automation of business-intent policies. This simplifies operations for IT and minimizes the learning curve cycle.
- Improves and simplifies the connectivity between on-premise and off-premise infrastructure. With an SD-WAN, IT no longer needs to manually configure and provision VPN tunnels.
2. Managing SLAs for Off-Premise Workloads
It is estimated that 80 percent of enterprises have adopted hybrid or multi-cloud architectures (source: RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report). Therefore, managing SLAs regardless of where the application resides can be a daunting challenge for IT.
How can SD-WAN help?
- Defines QoS and security policies easily for workloads from a centralized orchestrator across all branches without the need to manually program each branch separately, simplifying overall management
- Once SLAs are defined, an SD-WAN monitors link performance and automatically corrects for unforeseen impairments such as packet loss, latency or jitter without IT intervention
3. Software Skills With the Adoption of Software-Defined Technologies
One aspect of software-defined technologies is the move away from manual device-by-device configuration and management, often employing a CLI. Furthermore, the ability to integrate with 3rd party orchestration systems, collectors, etc. with open APIs.
How can SD-WAN help?
- Provides Restful APIs that can easily integrate with other systems
- Provides templates that can accelerate the integration process
New technologies like SD-WANs are intended to increase business agility and help IT to complete tasks with greater ease, efficiency and effectiveness. The business-driven Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform from Silver Peak can greatly improve the efficiency of managing the WAN edge, helping organizations assuage the IT shortage gap and overcome this challenge.