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.