Data Center Professional: Get Inside a Data Center Without an Impossible Mission

Data center with blue-lit interior

Pop quiz: what requires a lot of power to run, a lot of skill to maintain, a lot of space to function, and makes a really cool setting for sci-fi/action movies?


No, not a spaceship. Not an army camp. Actually, those are probably better ...


Anyway, it's Data Centers, and while they might catch the eye of a Hollywood location scout, they should probably catch yours, too. The most basic definition of a data center is a facility used to house active computer systems and their necessary peripheral complements, and usually refers more specifically to servers.


By this loose definition, a data center can be anything from the closet where your local florist shop keeps the computer that hosts its website, to the Lakeside Technology Center in Chicago, which covers more than 1 million square feet and requires 100 megawatts of power. As cloud computing becomes more accessible, however — and the population becomes more tech-savvy in general — we're going to be seeing a lot more of the latter, and a lot less of the former. 


It's not just cloud, though. We live in the Information Age, ladies and gentlemen, an age of tailored-fit advertising and data processing, and in these fields especially, the usage data from smart phones (or smart devices, to avoid offending our chubbier mobile friends) is invaluable. The problem is that these devices simply produce too much data, enough that human efforts could not provide a significant return on it.


Enter big data, the discipline of letting computers automatically sort through massive data sets for us and identify trends and patterns. The information gleaned from these massive data sets (which are estimated to total over 40 trillion gigabytes in less than a decade) can be extremely useful, but only if one has the processing power to render it.


So — what skills does an upwardly-mobile IT professional need to foster to take advantage of the growing need for Data Center administrators and technicians? You'll need to know how to install servers correctly, create the correct backups, keep accurate inventory, and implement diagnostics testing to identify issues. These are the basics, but other fields that might come into play could be network administration, virtualization, project management, and virtual automation, to list a few.


Aside from the IT background, a data center professional needs to know how to organize and maintain a facility. This is more than just making sure the janitor turns the lights off. Besides the sheer amount of power a large data center requires, there's other infrastructure as well, such as fire suppression and cooling systems.


Dude on laptop working in server room

The job can be demanding, but it'$ got it$ perk$. A basic Data Center tech can start out with a $42k salary, while a fully realized engineer can expect an average of $90k a year, and six figures is not uncommon.


It wouldn't be a GoCertify article if we didn't take some time to mention certs, and with Data Centers, there are some good ones. Take, for instance, the old Cisco classic, the CCNA. Of course, we're talking specifically about the Cisco Certified Network Associate Data Center, the certification which will never stop bothering me with "Associate" being in the middle of the name instead of the end. The certification is designed specifically for Data Centers, requires passing two 90-minute exams to obtain, and is offered via Pearson VUE. There is also a professional version of the cert.


If you'd like something a bit more vendor-neutral, you can go with CNet's Certified Data Centre Management Professional (CDCMP). This cert, originating in Britain (and you thought "Centre" was a typo), is not offered via exam but rather by the completion of a rigorous (and pricey) week-long program. This cert leans more toward administration than maintenance or installation, but at over five grand, you'll want to be sure you can get your money's worth from it. You can find a list of course dates and locations here.


Bottom line is, the size and numbers of these data centers are increasing. With proper preparation, it won't be long before you'll have one around to take advantage of. Or, at very least, film that James Bond homage you've been meaning to direct. Send me the YouTube link when you're done; I'll watch any of that stuff.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author
David Telford

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.