It's hard, in an economy that finds bottom and then wallows there, to say that a particular set of IT skills is in extremely high demand. Recruiters acknowledge that amide layoffs and slashed IT budgets skill areas designated "hot" may only be "less cold than others."
Skills in virtualization -- which is both a hot new technology and one that can save enterprises lots of money in data centre costs-seem to have overcome that faint praise, however, and become genuinely hot.
"If you look at what demand is out there and the cost savings you can achieve with [virtualization], that speaks volumes. That's why it still gets the budget dollars approved for it," according to Brian Gabrielson a regional vice president of Robert Half Technology|, the IT-recruiting division of global contract-employment and recruiting giant Robert Half International (RHI).
RHI's latest quarterly IT Hiring and Skills Report on the IT market predicted 8 percent of companies will hire additional IT staff this quarter, while 6 percent expect to lay some off to accommodate shrinking IT budgets.
"If either of my kids were ready to graduate from college this year and had any interest in technology, virtualization is the way I'd point them," said Gary Federico, technical recruitment manager at Advizex TechnologiesVMware-based virtualization.
"Consolidation is a key component of almost everything that's going on, so a lot of positions out there that aren't 'virtualization' positions, have virtualization as a big component to the job," he says. "People who have really good virtualization credentials are still pretty rare, though."
Virtualization, like application development, is a broad term with as many sub-specialties as there are sub-specialties within IT, and no one is expert in all of them, or even most.
So which are the five most sought-after virtualization skills?
It's not a skill per se, but IT pros with solid, practical experience building and managing virtual infrastructures are still rare.
"There are a lot of people out there with their VCP certification," Federico says. "VCP is a good certification and it's genuinely valuable, but compared to something like a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, where you have to pass both the test and a lab exam, it doesn't guarantee much hands-on experience."
Virtualization can be so complex and subtle that even technically savvy recruiters like Federico (who spent years as a Hewlett-Packard solutions engineer) can't thoroughly vet VCPs whose depth of expertise may not be what they say it is. "I have to have them go back and talk to my real technical experts," Federico says. "They can tell."
The ability to understand an existing IT infrastructure and plan a virtual infrastructure that is stable, efficient and flexible is the top request from customers doing either new virtualization installs or upgrades, Gabrielson says.
"These are people who have a keen eye for the business side of the organization, and understand what you're trying to accomplish, as well as having the technical skills," Gabrielson says.
Architects have to have a deep understanding of both the virtualization technology and the IT that is already in place in order to avoid bottlenecks and inefficient load-balancing schemes. They also need to make resource sharing as efficient as possible and avoid bogging down the network with the data moving among virtual machines, virtual storage and the real infrastructure underneath, Federico says.
"It's a real trick," he says.
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