Addressing Data Center Staffing Crisis with Edge Computing

Mar 23, 2022

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The demand for data centers is increasing due to their critical role in almost every sector for large amounts of data storage and distribution. The pandemic has also increased their growth with the greater need for cloud technology to connect and support the remote workforce. Considering all these factors, the respective market is bound to grow swiftly in the future. But growth brings certain challenges like capacity planning to meet the rising demands of the data centers. The dearth of quality talents and increased attrition has brought in dark clouds in the name of uncertainty. Many suppliers and operators are seeing technologies as a means to clear out the obstacle. It is expected that edge computing will play a significant role in helping to come out of the trap. Let us take a moment to look at the impact of edge technology in detail.

Expansion in Data Center Market 

An increase in the adoption of IoT and cloud computing has aided the rapid growth data center market across the globe. In addition to the impact of the pandemic, it is further forecasted that the global market will reach $112.47 Bn by 2028, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of nearly 11% from 2021 to 2028, as per Verified Market Research. The market is also expected to continue to mature as more companies now deeply understand their computing needs. The business leaders like Microsoft, Amazon (AWS), Google, etc. have also moved away from the public cloud in favor of colocation and private data centers in the last year.

E-commerce databases are the key contributors to the expansion of the respective global market. They are being used by e-commerce firms to store and transfer large amounts of data sets for various organizational operations like promotional activities. One of the top organizations in this category to utilize data centers for analyzing consumer behaviors is Walmart with a 74% increase in e-commerce orders in the first quarter of 2021. Other technology firms like Fintech, Edtech, etc. are also expected to utilize it for different purposes, which will increase its growth globally.

Staffing Crisis in Data Centers

With the increase in the expansion of the market comes different challenges such as environmental concerns, liquid cooling, supply chain disruptions, etc. Technology staffing seems to be a consistent problem for the data centers from the past few years. More jobs are unfilled in the multiple roles in cloud and colocation due to the lack of finding a skilled workforce.

According to an Uptime Institute survey, 47% of the operators reported difficulty finding qualified candidates for present job vacancies, and 32% among them informed that their employees were being hired away mostly by the competitors. It is also estimated that the staffing requirements will grow globally to nearly 2.3 mn full-time employees in 2025.

In the present situation, many organizations are finding it difficult to recruit high-demand roles such as technicians, analysts of power systems, control specialists of facilities, robotics technologists, etc. The success of this environment depends on a specialized mix of skills. There is also a great demand for IT and software expertise for today’s workplaces and offices of data center companies, resulting in a far higher proportion of skilled individuals to total jobs in the respective industry than in other sectors. As a result, many of them have been understaffed and overburdened in recent years with a higher than expected number of open roles that go unfilled.

Bryon Price, Global Director of Technical Training at JLL stated, “The digital transformations during the pandemic have intensified the issue. But the real source of problems is a large number of data center staff hitting retirement age”. Most of the global data center employees are in the range of mid 45-55 age and are expected to retire in less than 10 years creating more job roles to fill for the operators which is a huge concern. Considering all these factors, it is expected that the respective industry will face a shrinking workforce and higher competition.

Edge Computing to Edge out the Staffing woes

Many of the data center operators are looking at technologies as a viable option for combating this crisis. Experts are of the opinion that the technologies will replace the human workforce in the data centers. But is this the way forward? Let us dwell more on this.

Many technology firms state that one of the top technology trends and predictions for 2022 Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, etc. will be increasingly used to improve data center operations. But automating these jobs with the above technologies will not reduce the dependency on the human workforce. Henceforth, the respective operators are coming up with an interesting ploy to use edge computing technology for solving staffing problems. 

According to the Uptime survey, the confidence amongst the technology suppliers in the near-term growth of the edge has climbed, with 60% of them believing that most of their clientele will own small edge data centers within 5 years, which is increased from 48% last year. Nearly 75% of the companies informed that they are making changes to their products or services in response to the edge opportunity. Many experts suggest that redesigns and changes are necessary for deployments as edge technology includes delicate equipment like edge servers and edge devices.

By deploying the edge data centers, the respective operators will not need dedicated staff to manage and control the day-to-day operations. An edge-based system from a single data center with zero-touch provisioning enables effective remote administration. Thus, organizations can have effective data center management along with overcoming staffing crisis.

Outlook on the Edge Data Centers

The trend of edge data centers promises greater distribution of computing power, and it’s become an area of interest for established IT powerhouses. Lin Gowen, VP of Business Development at 1623 Farnam says, “High capacity IT infrastructure is needed to support the idea of the metaverse, making edge data centers more crucial than ever”. It is being estimated that edge data center market size will grow from $7.2 bn in 2021 to $19.1 bn by 2026, at a CAGR of 21.4%, as per Research and Markets report. Many sectors which use real-time market insights to process data for driving innovations such as in manufacturing, supply-chain, healthcare, transportation, autonomous vehicles, etc. need them for the operations. 

The benefits of their deployment outweigh the challenges. Some of the significant benefits are enabling faster performance and lower latency as companies will not have to move the data to extensive data centers to process it. The facilities also include high levels of physical and cyber security to prevent cyber attacks, less data is uploaded to the cloud, and a reduced amount of vulnerable data is available in transit. Edge technology allows for more immediate application of analytics and AI capabilities for meeting customers’ expectations for engaging and immersive real-time interactions. 

The setting up of edge data centers is expected to be a go-to approach for most companies with all the advantages that they bring in. Companies such as Nvidia, Arista Networks, etc. are ramping up the production of edge computing hardware expecting a bright future for edge data centers. Most trending technologies like 5G, IoT, AR/VR, etc. need edge data centers and this will help in their increased deployment in the future. But the companies might still tread cautiously around the strategies to deploy it which will be critical for their future business plans. Also, the adoption of these technologies might vary across different sectors. But with the pace at which they are progressing, it will be hard for the companies to look beyond and act faster.

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