Data center facilities pro

Sep 3 2008   4:25PM GMT

New certification from ASHRAE, but does it matter?

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers, better known in the industry as ASHRAE, has a new certification program focusing on facility operations and performance, something of which data center operators can take advantage.

But should they take advantage of it, and does it matter?

In a survey this year of SearchDataCenter.com readers, we found that almost half (47%) of the 579 data center IT and facility employees we questioned had “no certifications to date.” Furthermore, more than two-thirds said that certification has neither been a factor in hiring, promotion, nor a salary increase/bonus.

So then the question becomes: Why bother with certification?

Those that offer it – such as ASHRAE, Marist College’s Institute for Data Center Professionals, and APC’s Data Center University – claim that the certifications help data center pros keep up-to-date on what’s going on in the industry. Here’s a blurb from the IDCP site:

…the mission of the IDCP is to support the professionals responsible for and working in data centers by providing a variety of credit-bearing and non-credit classes appropriate for employee development and training.

And from Data Center University:

The changing nature of data centers‚ and the technology that impacts them‚ makes it even more critical that employees remain up to date on the current theories and best practices for issues around topics of power‚ cooling‚ management‚ security‚ and planning.

There is no question that there is a knowledge gap when it comes to finding comprehensive data center pros. Pete Sacco, president of PTS Data Center Solutions, told me that he has a difficult time finding people with the breadth of knowledge in both IT and facilities management that he can hire. It usually requires education – either in academia or in the workforce – of computer technology and engineering, and he said that not too many people out there have it. And even though going to data center conferences and events that groups like AFCOM, The Uptime Institute, The Green Grid and Gartner put on can help, it may not provide that level of detailed education that you need to solve problems in the field.

Many of the data center managers out there started as overall facilities managers, and are now taking on the task of handling energy-sucking data centers, which are completely different animals from handling the HVAC in your typical office environment.

I think that although certification isn’t popping up now as being important, it may in the future. And even if it doesn’t, the knowledge required to handle these data centers is and will continue to be important, especially if that knowledge becomes rarer in the future than it already is now.

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