Could skills gap hold back software defined (SDN) transformation?

Eugene Wolf, CEO of Logicalis SMC, looks at potential barriers to both SDN adoption and to the realisation of its true transformative value, and concludes that one stands head and shoulders above the rest – skills.

Will skills gap hold back SDN?

Logicalis SMC recently took a lead role in a global Logicalis initiative designed to assess the future impacts of SDN. At the heart of that initiative was a study carried out by a 100-strong international team of Logicalis service and technology specialists, and including interviews with business and IT leaders across Europe, Asia, North and South America, which identified a clear consensus on two fronts.

First, CIOs agree that ‘software defined’ has the potential to transform infrastructures like networks and data centres into the agile, flexible service platforms that will underpin a revolution in the way organisations provision, consume and manage technology.

This is a view I share.  Software defined can fundamentally transform the role of IT departments. It can enable them to operate like internal service providers, combining the ability to manage core infrastructure intelligently and efficiently with the capacity to support line of business leaders, by rapidly provisioning the services their strategic priorities demand, all while improving overall cost efficiency.

However, the study also found that realising the full transformative effect of ‘software defined’, rests on the availability of skilled business analysts able to bridge the gap between business strategy, operational priorities, and IT policy definition and management, skills which are, at present, in short supply.

Without wanting to overstate the case, these analysts will play a key role in transforming IT departments. They will act as the ‘human interface’ between the business and its intelligent, programmable infrastructure. They will analyse business priorities and translate them into IT business rules and policies, and then play a central role in managing what is likely to become a complex and interdependent policy framework over time.

It is easy to see why, then, a lack of these skills could hold SDN back – realising the full value of SDN depends on access to a specialist, and rare, set of skills. And these are skills that few of the organisations we spoke to felt they had access to internally.

As a result, at least in the short term, it appears most organisations will have to look to service providers to supply those skills. Longer term, however, it will be very interesting to see how the market for these skills plays out. Will organisations invest in hiring these specialist analysts, or will they continue to rely on trusted partners to provide them?

My guess is, as ever, the answer will be somewhere in the middle. 

Tags Staffing, Software Defined Networking, SDN