We Heart Data Center Engineers


For those of you underappreciated server jockeys keeping data center costs down and utilization up using duct tape and homemade software, the New York Times salutes you. Actually it recognizes how important people like you are, especially now that demand for compute power and energy efficiency is soaring. Most of the article highlights the need for data centers to go green, which as we’ve pointed out, is neither easy nor cheap — just yesterday a startup building a “green” data center said construction would cost $100 million.

But the need to save energy is only a symptom of the rising demand for hardware and compute power — power that needs to be managed by someone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the demand for computer and network administrators will grow by 48.5 percent from 2006 to 2016. The demand for designers of such networks and folks to maintain web sites will grow by 82.3 percent, making them two of the fastest-growing jobs in the computer systems design category. According to other data from the agency, the pay isn’t bad, either.

Until software and hardware mature to the point of automating routine tasks around energy efficiency, virtualization and management, more servers mean more people. Which means that instead of social networking, the next generation of startups will need to figure out hardware-oriented tasks. Entrepreneurs focused on how to manage heterogeneous virtualized environments, compliance and security in virtualized servers, or on better ways to bring storage into the data center as Ethernet replaces Fibre Channel for storage area networks, will find funding. These days, we’re moving from programming to pipes.


Daniel Golding


Check out the Marist datacenter institute for an example of the 2-year degrees they are talking about – basically datacenter technicians, doing stuff like HVAC maintenance, running cross-connects, racking/stacking. The salaries that the NYT talked about, though, are totally exaggerated.

Stacey Higginbotham

Daniel, I think the BLS classifications may be misleading you. I tried to highlight only the stats related to the category of jobs that focus on the people who design, install and manage the hardware and networks in the data center. The BLS calls them network and systems administrators and analysts, but the description next to the title explains why I chose them. That being said, I realize the NYTimes was talking about more than this subset, but the broad engineering data from the BLS doesn’t break out engineering that way.

Plus, the NYTimes article did mention a few technical certifications and two-year programs as being on the rise because of the increase in data centers needing folks to manage them. I don’t think this dilutes the power of a degree or PE certification, though :)

Daniel Golding

Um, no. Stacey, I think you missed the point of the NYT article. Its not about network engineers or system administrators or software developers. Its not about the guys using open source software or “computer and network administrators”. The article is referring to the electrical and mechanical engineers who design and operate the physical facilities that are then filled with servers, routers, switches, and other such accountramenss. The average system administrator with a CS degree is completely unqualified to design a datacenter and largely unqualified to operate one. The datacenter engineers that the article talks about are degreed engineers with, in many cases, state PE certificates.

Oh, and hi, Vijay!

vijay gill

“These days, we’re moving from programming to pipes.” Almost, thats last generation tech. These days, we’re moving from pipes to programming the pipes.

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