IT skills needed for virtualization are familiar but different

When it comes to the skills needed for virtualization, traditional skills developed for the physical infrastructure may only be the beginning. Users and other program leaders need to be in on the conversation from the beginning. As complexity increases, “virtualization architects” who understand all the nuances may be needed.

When it comes to the people and skills needed to build a virtualized infrastructure, it’s tempting, because this is still about technology, to think that current skills in the IT department will suffice, though perhaps with a little tweaking. On one level, that might be right, but organizations realize that it will take much more than traditional skills.

Adrian Gardner, CIO at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, thinks there will definitely be a variety of different skill sets needed from a variety of people — certainly those who understand the technology but also those who can work with the span of stakeholders who will be affected by and will regularly use the virtualized infrastructure.

“It’s going to be staged around those people who understand the cloud and virtualization for sure, and there’ll be a big upswing around security,” he said. “But we’ll also be preparing the user base and our colleagues who actually run projects and programs to incorporate virtualization and cloud infrastructures on the front end of the conversation for things they are planning to build five to 10 years out.”

To do that, he’s established an “innovation program” in which the people who operate the day-to-day side of Goddard’s current physical IT infrastructure join an innovation team that is looking at what’s needed for virtualization, creating what he terms an “operations-to-innovation life cycle.”

“We’ll innovate on one side and then have what amounts to a sandbox where the innovators and the day-to-day infrastructure engineers can have a mind meld and share ideas back and forth as well as competencies,” he said. “We’ll also be bringing in the user base, so both the operators and innovators can hear from the users and what their demands are.”

The idea is to bring the overall workforce up to speed in its competency about virtualization as well as the cloud, he said.

The specific technical skills needed to manage the virtualized infrastructure likely already exist in the IT department, said Jose Padin, systems engineer manager at Citrix Systems, but might have to be applied in a different way than people are used to. As opposed to server virtualization, for example, those handling virtual desktops will certainly need Windows operating system management experience, but they’ll also be involved in direct user contact.

Likewise, Windows Server operating system management skills will be needed, so those people used to managing Microsoft enterprise systems will also need to handle the virtual infrastructure components.

“There will be a learning curve to understand the technology, the many to one, but the skill sets for this do exist,” Padin said.

Oracle Public Sector Chief Technologist Peter Doolan, however, thinks a central virtualization architect who can understand how all the pieces in the virtualized infrastructure come together might be needed.

“We have managed to execute the mission of IT in the physical world because we have visibility into it and because much of that infrastructure is siloed,” he said. “But you virtualize that and you’ve lost that human line of sight to the problem, and that means you have to have a much tighter role around architecture, around communicating that architecture, and with the governance to make sure that works within your skill sets and the team you have on the ground.”

Doolan said he loves technology and all the things associated with it, “but I have never seen a technology [such as virtualization] turn around and bite its owners so hard.” He worries that the IT leadership in government thinks this is the one thing to cure everything.

“It’s not,” he said. “It’s down to the human side of it and how people are accepting this and managing it. Technology has always needed time to gestate.”


About this report

This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please e-mail us at [email protected].