Wetware Drought

Out of 800 enterprise IT managers, 86 per cent have a hard time finding qualified people; 54 per cent have trouble keeping the ones they have.

Specifically,

  • 36 per cent of them can’t staff security specialists
  • 31 per cent of them can’t staff database administrators
  • 26 per cent of them can’t staff storage administrators

I mention those three disciplines, in particular, because they’re skills that don’t create much competitive advantage when done perfectly, but they represent enormous downside risks when done less well. So, why retain the burden of doing them in-house?

The numbers cited here are from an October 2007 report, "State of the Data Center," published by Symantec. Some people will use numbers like these to sell you tools that automate data center administration: I’d rather suggest that these are reasons not to have a data center at all. That’s the announced goal at Sun Microsystems, where data center architect Brian Cinque has blogged on his goal of "0 SunIT Data Centers" by 2015.

People have been talking about the shift of IT cost from hardware and software to wetware since at least the 1960s.  I can’t quickly find it now, but I remember seeing an article from the Harvard Business Review that was dated something like 40 years ago, warning about the cost of IT starting to rise: the cost of the human components, it concluded, would swamp any further declines in (ahem) mainframe pricing.

Well, we’ve gone through a few more teeth of the saw since then, with any number of hard-tech discontinuities starting us on a new downward trend of overall cost — but every one of those downslopes has a bottom. Is this the last sawtooth cycle? Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch suggests that we’re at a critical point.

And 33 per cent of those 800 IT pros say that key people are retiring: solutions available now, like SaaS and PaaS, are better than solutions yet to be defined.

Published
February 11, 2008
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