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Virtualization tightening the IT job market?

The companies I speak with about their virtualization projects always list the same reasons for going virtual: they don’t have enough space in their data center to add more physical servers; they can’t afford power and cooling bills; they want to consolidate physical machines; and they want to consolidate physical people.

That’s right. The majority of people I speak with – employers and employees alike – say they deploy virtual machines to avoid deploying more IT staff. While this is great for corporations, it isn’t so good for IT job seekers.

For example, I went to a VMware Inc. User Group meeting in Boston on March 27 where one user gave a presentation about the virtualization project he oversaw at a Maine-based paper manufacturing company, SAPPi. “One reason we wanted to virtualize is we needed to lower our IT headcount,” according to the systems engineer. “We needed to get rid of high end support and just keep desktop support.”

A company called QualComm Inc has seen a similar side-effect of virtualization. At the VMware Virtualization Seminar Series in Providence Feb 26, VMware presented a case study of the wireless technology company about how it started with 1,200 servers and consolidated down to 100physical servers (12:1 ratio) , increasing data center space and cutting back on power and cooling.

That’s great. And the cherry on top? They have not had to increase their IT staff at all in almost three years.

And at the growing Owen Bird Law Corp. in Vancouver, British Columbia, their sole IT staffer, Stephen Bakerman, went with Virtual Iron virtualization to avoid adding more physical servers and hiring more staff to help him manage it all.

“The cost savings is probably $100,000, and the time savings for me are incredible. Once everything is virtualized, I can run everything from my desktop remotely from my office or at home. I don’t have to hire someone else, and I would have if we kept adding servers,” Bakerman said.

Sure, I get how cool virtualization is, and the benefits it brings from a savings and management stand-point, but is anyone else concerned those IT college kids who dream of days spent engineering systems? or those system administrators who may get consolidated from many to few along with their servers?

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This is a disaster waiting to happen. Virtualization is about empowering your IT staff not to replace them. If you think the reason you need IT staff is because the number of physical host servers you have, you are dead wrong. Bakerman, especially, treating server-level applications as if they were desktops is doing his company a great disservice. Is he not a specialist for all applications running within his company? I seriously doubt that to be the case. Virtualization should not affect staffing in this way and I challenge any company to show me a case where this is not a short-sighted, ill-fated business model.
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