How to Staff It

Workers with virtualization skills are in high demand

Thanks to technology, it doesn't take a whole lot of people to run a data center. With new remote-management and automation capabilities, you need fewer data center staffers. For instance, Microsoft Corp. will staff its 500,000-square-foot Chicago data center with only 35 people. Read more about Microsoft's new data center.

And at Virgin America Inc., CIO Bill Maguire is using an India-based remote infrastructure provider to manage his operations during overnight hours -- and he's doing it at a big cost savings. Maguire says the full-time annual salaries of network, database and applications administrators to manage those systems overnight in the U.S. could run as high as $90,000. Instead, he pays $17 to $20 an hour per person to have his systems run remotely. The U.S. staff handles operations during the day.

But there is one area of expertise that is in high demand in U.S. data centers: virtualization technology skills.

Over the past year, the number of active advertisements on the Dice.com job site seeking people with skills in VMware virtualization tools has gone from a few hundred to more than 1,500, says Tom Silver, Dice Inc.'s senior vice president of marketing and customer support. "This is among the fastest [growth] we have ever seen" for a specific skill, he says.

Some virtualization help-wanted ads seek people with three to five years of experience in a technology that five years ago was still rare. The pool of experienced administrators is still relatively small. Consequently, while pay appears to start at $60,000 for a systems administrator with some VMware experience, salaries of $80,000 to $100,000 are also being advertised. Find pay averages for other IT skill sets in the 2007 Salary Survey.

Use Both Kinds of Green

When recruiting people with virtualization expertise, it may help to prove that your company cares about eco-friendly technology.

Six months ago, Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. in St. Louis set up a green IT committee to explore ways to save energy. Among those on the committee was a representative of the human resources department, says Jim Miller, assistant vice president for IT.

"One of the things that we found as we recruit IT folks is that there's an interest in what we are doing to preserve the environment," says Miller. "We're finding that people are very, very much interested in this -- they like the fact that a company is focused on this."

Next: What's in your dream data center? Experts weigh in. 

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