I have been socializing this concern for quite some time now and recently I started doing more interviewing for hiring and have found that my concern is quite valid.  What is this concern you ask..the lack of mid range IT talent.  The introduction of virtualization to the datacenter and then the small server room has fundamentally changed the growth path for IT professionals.  Historically we had levels of IT staff with a growth path that looks like the one below.

Career Progression

We still have the help desk tech that can help out at the end user, although that is being phased out with the use of virtual desktops, that person now needs to know the back end architecture also. When a new graduate starts in IT, they need to walk in and learn the basics of an enterprise IT system, placing them firmly in the systems admin role.  They manage what already exists but they do not know the inner workings or how to design the system.  They are the virtualization user.  With the explosion of cloud, even this position is getting lost with self-service portals like CloudStack and vCloud Director.  These systems are built by the group of IT professionals that grew up through the chain above and many are now in the senior level.  These are also the same IT pros that are moving into management and away from hands on every day work.  Where does that leave us?

From systems administrator to systems engineer there is a dire lack of positions that give administrators the chance to learn and grow and hone their craft to the level of cross functional knowledge.  Who will build the next large datacenter for your enterprise company?  The public cloud says that you should just put your data in the cloud and not worry about building your own.  Seems simple enough but the service providers also have the same issue as your company does, a lack of trained mid to high talent.

How do we fix this?  Start with the technology we look at for our datacenter, do your end users need to provision their own VMs? Or could you have a trained mid level staffer that know the compute and storage requirements and then uses the portal to deploy the right solution.  Does your end use know the IOPs of storage needed for that VM they just built from the portal?  Probably not and when it is slow they will call and complain.  The systems in the datacenter need to be easy to manage to keep the staff efficient but not so easy that it is mind dumbing.

lego-mona-lisa-2Build your IT solutions like a lego kit, each building block is crucially important, be it the storage and the way disk are provisioned, or the compute and the number of CPU cycles.  If you make sure your staff knows how each piece fits with the next you can grow that single piece into a beautiful work of art, hopefully stopping the sinkhole that is a lack of knowledge and experience in the middle layers of IT professionals.