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Topic Title: Are DC's unique?
Topic Summary: DC's need to hire broad-based Engineers instead of CCIE's and MSCE's
Created On: 31 May 2012 10:33 AM
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 31 May 2012 10:33 AM
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snash

Posts: 3
Joined: 03 October 2001

I see the significance of Data Centres to the way our society works today.
I see also that a variety of skills are required in the operation of DC's.
However I do not see that DC's are unique in this respect.

A car is also a hybrid system of mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering, and chemical too.
An ocean cruise ship requires whole ranges of skill sets, as does an electricity generating station, both operating continuously, no less that a DC. A passenger aircraft has massive safety issues around all sorts of engineering specialisations. Heat transfer is an issue in all of these systems, as is manipulation of electricity and mechanical load-handling plus other fluid mechanics, civil and chemical engineering. All need electronic control, communication and information systems.

In fact, when engineering is applied to real problems, the solution almost always involves a wide range of skills, which includes IT.

Any engineering degree course in the UK today includes significant IT elements.
There are engineering graduates that are IT practitioners that might qualify for Chartered Engineer status.

The problems that lead to a lack of professional qualification in DC staff are:
1/ The professional institutions do not capture employees that work in the IT sector.
2/ The IT sector does not recognise value in professional accreditation in this sector
3/ Many employers are American and do not have an understanding of professional qualification.

The first two are related and are both symptoms of the fact that the IT industry places too high a value on proprietary training qualifications from major vendors. Each vendor is of course focussed on their own products and not on any general engineering principles.

I am a Chartered Engineer working in the IT sector. I share the concern that IT employees frequently have very narrow perceptions of their working environment. They wear badges of CCIE, MSCE and others, but they have no general engineering training or mindset.

The solution is to hire people who already have the broader perception and to take engineering graduates with the right broad background and invest in developing their skills in the specialist elements that are required in the DC.
The compromise that the industry will have to make is that the man-power will be more expensive.

But Mr Davis's motivation seems to be that DC operational performance would be higher if staff had a better professional engineering attitude. So perhaps the advantages of good people would out-weigh the incremental costs of hiring and developing professional engineering staff.
Is this a simple case of "you get what you pay for"?


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snash
 13 June 2012 05:03 PM
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jakegreenland

Posts: 66
Joined: 04 May 2009

Originally posted by: snash

There are engineering graduates that are IT practitioners that might qualify for Chartered Engineer status.



Indeed - I've worked with many but I don't think one needs it to have the appropriate professional attitude and I've worked with many practitioners with the requisite professional attitude but lacking the education and who would never consider registration.



The problems that lead to a lack of professional qualification in DC staff are:

1/ The professional institutions do not capture employees that work in the IT sector.

2/ The IT sector does not recognise value in professional accreditation in this sector

3/ Many employers are American and do not have an understanding of professional qualification.



I agree with the first two, not so much the third. I've generally encountered the highest density of professionally registered IT people in organisations that deal with the government and the military whereas private companies tend to care less - I don't think the ownership of the company is that relevant - I think the business they are in is. The likes of Siemens, Bae, EADS etc are all offshoots of engineering companies so it's understandable it is within their culture whereas a company that sprung from an Insurance company or similar is less likely to have the focus on that and more likely to be concerned with the bottom line. Interestingly those big Military and Government providors are also the places where I've seen the biggest wastes of money on IT projects.


I am a Chartered Engineer working in the IT sector. I share the concern that IT employees frequently have very narrow perceptions of their working environment. They wear badges of CCIE, MSCE and others, but they have no general engineering training or mindset.


I happen to be both CEng and CCIE and I don't share that concern in the same way. Whilst true for some individuals it's not true of others and there is no way you can make that sweeping generalisation. I think there is a place for Professional Engineers in IT but I don't think it is an answer to any problems within IT. In some cases the engineering mindset leads to things that are simply of no value in IT - look at the OSI protocol stack developed by "proper" engineers that all of us in IT end up learning and quietly ignoring in favour of the dominant TCP/IP model. [Although the exams demand we do our best to ram the two together ]



The solution is to hire people who already have the broader perception and to take engineering graduates with the right broad background and invest in developing their skills in the specialist elements that are required in the DC.

The compromise that the industry will have to make is that the man-power will be more expensive.



And the services they supply to the consumer will also be more expensive which will make them non-competitive leading to companies moving to offshore providors for the data centre needs. In a globalised industry we have to have a commercial awareness about what is and isn't practical.
Whilst the designer of the DC infrastructure is probably someone who will be founded in good engineering principles [chartered or not] the guys who run round bolting things into racks, patching cables and making operational config changes don't need to be in the same way that the person designing a car engine is a professional engineer but the people assembling and maintaining it aren't.

I work alongside guys with years of experience in DC design that I'd turn to over a young graduate professional engineer any time. At the end of the day experience is what really counts.



But Mr Davis's motivation seems to be that DC operational performance would be higher if staff had a better professional engineering attitude. So perhaps the advantages of good people would out-weigh the incremental costs of hiring and developing professional engineering staff.



Having designed several DCs from scratch of varying sizes in the last few years and reviewed countless others on a consultancy basis the one thing that jumps out of me is that the operational performance is rarely poor due to the people that work in them. More often than not it's the commercial pressures that lead to picking cheaper, underpowered, equipment that simply cannot handle the load they request of the it. The staff end up carrying the can for that due to perceived poor processes, lack of professionalism or some other reason but in reality the problem starts, and will end, with the money men.

You don't need professionally registered staff to run a data centre. You do need motivated enthusiastic staff and you do need a solid platform to let them get on with their job. If the kit they are working with is substandard then they will simply spend all their time firefighting and productivity will drop as they become more and more demotivated. No amount of professional training will prevent that.

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Jake Greenland, CEng MIET.
CCIE #22595
 29 June 2012 02:04 PM
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snash

Posts: 3
Joined: 03 October 2001

Jake
I think we agree. My comments referred to the article by Ashley Davis. http://www.theiet.org/membersh...s/29/data-centres.cfm
He seemed to be asking for a Professional qualification for DC operators. I agree with you that this is more of a technician role.
Vendor qualifications are good. My point was only that they should not be relied on as if they were general engineering qualifications.


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snash
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