One of the major challenges for many IT departments is finding employees with the right skills and experience. There’s long been a shortage of talent in the sector, especially when it comes to areas such as networking and data center professionals. This can make it more time-consuming and difficult to manage networks with limited resources.
However, there are ways you can tackle this without turning to the highly-competitive jobs market. And one increasingly-popular solution is the use of technologies such as SD-WAN.
The challenges facing data center staffing
The data center is an area that’s particularly struggling with a talent shortage. According to the Uptime Institute, 50% of businesses reported difficulty finding qualified candidates for open roles in 2020. This is up from 41% the previous year and 38% in 2018.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One issue is an aging workforce, as younger candidates are more attracted to work in other areas of IT. As a result, it’s becoming more difficult to replace retiring workers. Gender imbalance is also an issue, with the Uptime Institute noting a quarter of firms have no women working in their data centers, while just 4% have an even gender split. The survey said this hinders efforts to bring more people and skills into the sector.
As a result, many firms will find it difficult to effectively manage their networks, maintain connectivity between cloud and on-premise services and support digital transformation initiatives.
What is SD-WAN?
However, there are steps businesses can take to alleviate this, and one option is to embrace SD-WAN technology. This combines software-defined networking (SDN) principles with wide area network (WAN) connections to provide a more streamlined networking environment.
Among its many benefits is the ability to manage multiple types of connection, such as MPLS, LTE and broadband, which ensures users can securely connect to applications as efficiently as possible. It also uses centralized controls to manage and direct traffic for optimum performance.
However, it could also be an answer to many firms' skills shortage issues by addressing key challenges such as managing complex cloud environments and taking many day-to-day activities out of the hands of data center employees.
Upskilling your employees
An essential first step in deploying SD-WAN technology will be to ensure your existing employees have the skills to use it properly. It may seem counterintuitive to tackle a skills shortage by introducing new technology that’ll require additional training to use, but the benefits you can expect to see as a result of this will usually far outweigh the investment in time and money it’ll take to get people up to speed.
For starters, employees should be keen to develop their SD-WAN skills. This isn't a technology that's likely to go away anytime soon, so having talents in this area will be highly desirable.
It also demonstrates how firms are investing in their workforce's development. This can help build loyalty and boost employee retention, which can be especially challenging in areas where skills are short and competitors are always on the lookout for talent.
How SD-WAN can benefit businesses
As well as improving your employees' overall skills, the adoption of SD-WAN technologies can help overcome many of the shortcomings that data center managers struggle with in today's environment due to talent shortages.
By streamlining and simplifying connectivity across your network, employees have to spend less time monitoring services or manually provisioning and configuring connections. SD-WAN solutions offer employees a centralized, holistic view of the network and the policies that’ll need to be enforced for each connection.
Easier management of cloud workloads
A common challenge for many network professionals is keeping up with the wide variety of cloud environments in use in today's firms. It’s estimated that some 93% of firms run multi cloud or hybrid architectures, which can make for particularly complex governance issues.
SD-WAN can help with this by easily managing service level agreements (SLAs), no matter where applications reside. Once these SLAs are defined, the tools can monitor performance and look for issues such as latency, jitter or packet loss. Solutions can then be adjusted to maintain performance without direct IT intervention.
Software-defined technologies offer businesses the opportunity to cut out much of the tedious, manual work of configuring and managing devices one by one. The use of templates can make it easy to speed up the process of integrating applications and devices, ensuring that key policies are always being followed and that configurations are consistent and error-free.
In turn, this can help improve the network's agility and scalability, as new third-party capabilities can be added and integrated quickly and easily. This again frees up your team's valuable time for other projects, which is also good for morale as it ensures they spend less time on dull and repetitive tasks.