So it has come to this. The validation of a concept or business model’s maturity can be measured by whether the answer is widely evident or one must “Google it.” As an advocate and resource for employees in the data center industry, I find myself trying to identify the training and certifying bodies that provide resources to increase the supply of experienced and credentialed data center talent. Alas, only three data center education and training resources come to mind without internet assistance.

As data center infrastructure continues to grow, we unfortunately can not just “add water” to the general population to produce more professionals having the unique convergence of skills and experience necessary to manage and strategically direct the capital planning of yet another colo. The growth in demand for these executives creates a shortage of data center facilities managers and functional personnel in its wake. “We have qualified managers at three of our facilities but they are full and with two new builds planned, how are we going to staff those with qualified personnel? We have our best people in our marquee facilities.” Good question … but what’s the answer?

The answer is to grow your own and promote from within. Communicate the importance of their future roles to your staff to encourage them to accelerate and diversify their knowledge base and contributions. Better yet, empower them with the resources to earn and gain professional training and certification available in the industry. Don’t wait for a formal certifying body to accredit one program or another. We’re currently a long way from unilateral governance, which begs the question of whether we need it or not.

The data center education and training resources currently available vary dramatically in terms of cost, time, location, and instruction type, from in class with a real instructor and collaborating with other students, to independent, web-based self-service, to a hybrid of the two.

Three prominent sources include DataCenterDynamics, Power Management Concepts, and Marist College. These programs offer credentials that others are sure to emulate. Cisco, HP, and APC by Schneider also offer programs. In addition, I’m sure that ASHRAE’s Technical Committee 9.9 on best practices for data center power and cooling management will facilitate a performance benchmark that we can build specific skillsets toward.

DataCenterDynamics offers a tremendous summary of this major issue facing the industry: “The multi-disciplinary nature of data centre management together with rapid technological advances requires that even experienced professionals working to maintain mission-critical facilities improve and expand their skill set. Combined with significant skills shortage within the data centre sector, the need for intensive training courses has never been greater.” Hey, I can’t make this stuff up!

DatacenterDynamics has taken a page from somebody’s branding techniques and now offers “DataCenterTrainingServices,” which has reached agreement with BICSI (Building Industry Consulting Service International) to incorporate its three-day “Datacenter Design” class into its “Datacenter Design Best Practice” course. Established in 1977, BICSI is a professional association providing information, education, and knowledge assessment for individuals and companies in the information technology systems (ITS) industry, which covers voice, data, electronic safety and security, and audio and video technologies.

The newly released “BICSI 002 Datacenter Design and Best Practices” will be fully accredited within the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) suite of internationally recognized standards. ANSI “oversees the creation, promulgation, and use of thousands of norms and guidelines that directly impact businesses in nearly every sector.” ANSI is also actively engaged in accrediting programs that assess conformance to standards-including globally recognized cross-sector programs such as the ISO 9000 (quality) and ISO 14000 (environmental) management systems.

It says something about the ever-shrinking world when a UK-based organization (DataCenterDynamics) promotes a Tampa, FL-based certifying training program (BISCI), which in turn utilizes a U.S.-based standard development platform (ANSI) to validate their programs.

The Marist College Institute for Data Center Professionals (IDCP) was founded in 2004 with support and funding from the National Science Foundation. Susan Scanlon, current IDCP director, noted their location just down the block from IBM facilitated sharing resources for study programs. Both Marist and IBM realized a critical skills deficiency in large environments. They collectively approached the National Science Foundation for a grant in vendor-neutral capacity, presenting that the workforce demographics of skilled professionals in the data center market were not trending in right way. Those promoted to manage data center space found themselves looking for resources and education, yet there were no apparent resources or governing bodies available.

IDCP offers six data center associate certificate training programs

  • Facilities Management
  • Security
  • Systems and Software
  • Operations and Process Management
  • Networking
  • Product Development and Financial Planning

Students who complete all six programs are recognized as Certified Data Center Professionals (CDCP) for completing a program that encompasses both information technology and mission-critical infrastructure. The data center training programs are delivered worldwide using an on-line, asynchronous, web-based course management system (iLearn.) The response to the program effectiveness has been overwhelmingly positive.

Scanlon noted the increased attendance has been sufficient to fund the program since the NSF grant ended in 2007. Marist recognized that no undergrad program for enterprise computing exists and also created the enterprise commuting community consisting of eight additional universities and nine industry partners who feel that “filling the skills shortage will stabilize a vulnerable technology environment before the problem reaches crisis proportions.”

Peter Curtis of Power Management Concepts (PMC) anticipated the skills shortage over 10 years ago and pioneered data center specific training. Curtis observed first hand the danger posed to individuals and enterprises posed by unqualified personnel working with the mechanical and electrical systems. As a result, he created a training program. PMC now provides online and on-site training courses educate companies, institutions, and individuals on fundamentals to effectively managing a mission-critical facility. This program is supported by Mission Critical magazine through its website.

The “Foundations of Mission Critical Infrastructure” certificate program includes 13 courses, which cover key concepts on equipment and techniques for maintaining reliability and resiliency in mission-critical environments. PMC is releasing “green” enhanced courses in UPS Systems, Data Center Cooling, Raised Access Floors, and a new Energy Security course. PMC is a registered provider of professional development sours (PDH) for engineers.

I’ll be sure to report back the day we get a search request with specific data center certification education or credentials as a requirement.