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Hot Jobs: The (Green) Data Center Exec Shuffle of ’09

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An interesting staffing phenomenon is affecting tech industry lately.  As my colleague Derrick recently pointed out, we’re in the midst of a data center executive shuffle. Take, for instance, Debra Chrapaty, Microsoft’s corporate VP of global foundation services. It was revealed this week that she’s moving to a plum assignment running the collaboration software group at Cisco, just as the networking giant makes big data center investments to handle the anticipated fourfold increase in Internet traffic by 2013.

She joins other data center execs that have set new career trajectories in recent months, like eBay’s Olivier Sanchez, who was hired by Apple, and Kevin Timmons, who was lured away from Yahoo by Microsoft. What do they all have in common?  They made green IT a cornerstone in how they approach data center planning and management.

IT executives are finding that their status is being elevated as demand for data centers grows. As Chrapaty told Om Malik in a video interview last year, “I am the cog, right here.” She was being too modest about her role. She and like-minded data center experts are actively laying the groundwork for  strategies that marry dense, power-efficient infrastructures with the scale required of cloud computing, particularly in the burgeoning online enterprise services space.

Considering that Microsoft adds 10,000 servers a month and its total data grows 10 times every three years, only dense, energy-efficient and fast server deployment strategies can keep up. During her time at Microsoft, Chrapaty championed the data-center-in-a-shipping-container concept, which allows organizations to compress the time it takes to get a traditional data center up and running from 12- to 18-months down to just a couple — and to do so with much lower cooling and energy requirements (see Kathy Austin’s “Green Data Center Design” report for more on this topic). It fits with her IT philosophy, which she shared with Om Malik at the time: “More utilization, better density and more power efficient.”

Similarly, Microsoft snatched up Kevin Timmons for his power management smarts — a good thing to have in today’s job market.  But another talent sets him apart: “valuable experience and know-how in the field of data center site selection.” The ability to scope out areas where it makes economic sense to set up shop is invaluable for companies; today that not only means access to cheap, plentiful power, but also sites with local climates that lend themselves to free cooling or supplemental renewable energy that can help boost efficiency.

Recently, while covering ex-Sun data center chief Dean Nelson’s move to eBay, James Niccolai of IDG News summed it up succinctly, writing that the recent “moves reflect the growing strategic importance of data-center management at large companies. As computing equipment becomes more dense and powerful, managing data centers effectively to reduce cooling and energy costs has become more critical.”

Naturally, not every business has Cisco- or Microsoft-sized payroll budgets. If you can’t poach top talent, grow your own. Today, you don’t have to look far to find green IT organizations and resources to set your staffers on an economically and environmentally sound path of IT growth. (Plus, you’re already here aren’t you?)

And if you’re looking to create a little more upward momentum in your own career, follow the examples of Chrapaty, Timmons and Sanchez. Their big-picture, beyond-the-server approach to green IT is already paying dividends for their careers.

Question of the week

Do you see green IT as a viable avenue for boosting to your career in IT?