How SD-WANs can bridge the IT skills gap

The data centre IT skills shortage is spilling over from the data centre to the management and administration of branch office infrastructure

Data centre IT skill shortages are set to intensify as most operators continue to struggle with staffing issues. According to a recent survey by Uptime Institute, this shortage is being driven by an aging workforce in this sector, as well as it being heavily male dominated.

The research indicates that other factors contributing to skill shortages include a lack of hybrid IT skills; new skills such as managing SLAs for off-premise workloads; software skills with adoption of software-defined technologies; and fewer young men and women entering the field.

The data centre IT skills shortage is spilling over from the data centre to the management and administration of branch office infrastructure. The two go hand in hand as most skills are leveraged across both areas.

Branch office networks are merely a “miniature architecture” of the data centre network. They typically include switches, routers, WAN optimisation appliances, firewalls and other networking gear. All of this requires similar IT knowledge and skills as the data centre.

As Australian enterprises embrace digital transformation and leverage a cloud-first strategy to accelerate it, new and hybrid IT skills are fast becoming critical to success.

How SD-WAN alleviates IT skill shortages

A software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) architecture was designed from the ground up to support cloud-first initiatives. Some of the more advanced offerings were also designed to be ‘business-driven.’

As more Australian organisations embrace a cloud-first model, many are shifting to a business-first networking model where the network enables the business, rather than the business conforming to the constraints of the network. Instead of being a constraint, the WAN is a business accelerant that is fully automated and continuous, giving every application the right resources, while delivering ten times the bandwidth for the same budget.

A business-first networking model ultimately delivers the highest quality of experience to users and IT. This means increased productivity, satisfaction and simplicity.

Let’s look closer at the top three IT skill shortages and how SD-WAN can bridge the gap:

1. Hybrid-IT skills

With a cloud-first model, IT must support applications running on-premise and in public clouds, as well as SaaS applications and IaaS services.

IT has full control of on-premise infrastructure and is familiar with the tools to manage it. Whereas, IT must adhere to the cloud providers’ offerings and constraints for public clouds. This challenge is amplified if the organisation embraces multiple cloud providers.

SD-WAN can help by providing a holistic view, as well as centralised orchestration and automation of business-intent policies. This simplifies operations for IT and minimises the learning curve cycle. It also improves and simplifies the connectivity between on-premise and off-premise infrastructure. IT no longer needs to manually configure and provision VPN tunnels.

2. Managing SLAs for off-premise workloads

It’s estimated that 80 percent of enterprises have adopted hybrid or multi-cloud architectures and are already running applications in three or more different clouds, according to the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report.

Not only are applications distributed across multiple locations and multiple clouds, users must be able to access them from any device and from anywhere. Managing SLAs regardless of where the application resides can be a daunting challenge for IT.

SD-WANs can help define quality of service (QoS) and security policies easily for workloads from a centralised orchestrator across all branches without the need to manually program each branch separately, simplifying overall management.

Once SLAs are defined, an SD-WAN monitors link performance and automatically corrects for unforeseen impairments, such as packet loss, latency or jitter without IT intervention.

3. Software skills with the adoption of software-defined technologies

One aspect of software-defined technologies is the move away from manual device-by-device configuration and management, often employing a command-line interface (CLI). In addition, the ability to integrate with third party orchestration systems, collectors and others with open APIs.

An SD-WAN provides RESTful APIs that can easily integrate with other systems. They also provide templates that can accelerate the integration process.

New technologies like SD-WAN are intended to increase business agility and help IT to complete tasks with greater ease, efficiency and effectiveness. By being business-driven, an SD-WAN can greatly improve the efficiency of managing the WAN edge, helping organisations ease the IT shortage gap and overcome this challenge.

Graham Schultz is ANZ regional director for Silver Peak, responsible for accelerating growth and customer adoption of the company’s SD-WAN solutions.

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