In recent days, "less bad" has become the favored description of much of the economy, including the IT industry. However, the number of positions needed for efficient operation of data centers has remained strong, continuing to show overall growth even in a down economy.
Listings for data center jobs have increased steadily in the last few years, according to data from job-listing aggregator Indeed.com, especially among companies looking for green IT, virtualization and cloud computing expertise. In July of last year, job listings seeking workers with "green" expertise nearly tripled and continue to grow, Indeed.com says.
"I think that data center jobs are making a stronger showing than many other sectors of the technology industry," says Rony Kahan, CTO of Indeed.com. "Data centers (jobs) are up quite significantly. It has seen growth, and even growth this year."
Signs of strength are welcome these days. The information-technology job market has seen significant unemployment rates in 2009, especially in some of the technology meccas, such as Silicon Valley, Boston's technology corridor and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Despite the declines, however, the industry has been less impacted by the severe economic recession than many other industries.
Two key factors are driving demand for IT industry jobs, especially at the senior manager and executive level, says Shawn Banerji, director of the global technology sector for executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.
"One is around governance in firms that are trying to get better clarity and transparency across their enterprise," Banerji says. "The flip side is that there is a big push around operations, engineering and operations improvements. How do we drive efficiencies, take out cost, do more with less, and how do we use outsourcing to our benefit?"
Seeking operational efficiencies, many companies are looking at outsourcing their data centers, a move which can cost some senior managers their jobs, but can also open up a more attractive position at the firms that run data centers, Banerji says.
"You go from being a perceived cost center in your old organization, to running something that is a critical business function and that your firm is actually making money on," he says.
The mini-boom in data centers is not good for everyone. Computer technicians and other operations pros in older data center environments should look to upgrade their skills, says John Longwell, director of research for business intelligence firm Computer Economics.
"You are seeing a decline in terms of computer operators, production control, people that are handling the tapes -- essentially those job associated with mainframe environments," Longwell says. "A lot of those jobs would be at the lower end of the pay scale. That can be attributed to the increased use of automation and growing efficiency in the data center."
According to Computer Economics annual IT job survey, system administrator and engineering positions have stayed steady for the past four years at around 6.5 percent to 7 percent of the information-technology workforce. The analyst firm expects that overall IT positions to decrease slightly this year.
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