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Also posted on: IT Infrastructure
Given the tumultuous, barely believable string of political events in the last couple of weeks, it takes a brave person to try and forecast likely economic outcomes over the next couple of years. However, among all the conflicting views, there are at least 3 things that are certainties that data centre management need to be aware of and be planning for. Two are very specific, the impact of new privacy and security regulations implicit in GDPR, and the need to tackle the skills gap. The third is more general, but probably has deeper implications for the data centre market in general, and specific operators in particular. This is the reality that in any sort of period of upheaval there are always as many opportunities as there are risks.
A few weeks before the Referendum I was at Infosec in London and I attended an excellent round-table on the new EU GDPR legislation that comes into full force on 25th May 2018. Even if we have managed to conclude exit negotiations before then the implications are clear. If you are dealing with EU customers, or have operations in EU countries you will need to be GDPR compliant. Also, indications from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) point strongly to the certainty that any specific UK privacy and data protection regulations will have to mirror those of the EU very closely. This legislation puts very specific responsibilities on the data processor as well as the data owner. It is likely that you will have to review and amend all of your contracts to take account of the new rules. Even if you are a co-location provider you still need to review your data governance structures to ensure you are not caught by any of the new regulations.
The Skills Gap
Much has still to be decided about the free movement of labour between the UK and the rest of the EU, but whatever happens, a critical skills gap for data centre engineers, operators and good managers will still exist. We can’t rely on a continued supply of skilled continental Europeans, and others, coming here to fill the gaps. Most data centre operators focus on their people as being a key differentiator. There is therefore a critical requirement to understand the competencies and capabilities you need. Assess the potential skills gaps you have and put in place the recruitment, retention, training and mentoring policies that will enable you to evidence your people really do make the difference. We might expect Government to help with some incentives, but improving the underlying flow of the right skills and attitudes coming out of the education system will take a generation to fix. Doing nothing yourself is not an option.
Risks and Opportunities
I’m not going to try and point out all the potential risks and opportunities for data centre operators inherent in the Brexit decision. Plenty of other commentators have been down that route and there will be varying opinions on almost every issue. The point is that, to avoid the risks and take advantage of the opportunities, you need to be able move fast, to be agile and lean enough to change direction at speed when needed. Your antennae should be minutely tuned to the changes going on around you. More than ever you need intelligence: market intelligence, customer intelligence and competitor intelligence. What better at such a moment in in our history than to look the driving principle of one of our greatest generals, the Duke of Wellington, who never lost a battle because, as he himself put it “I knew what was going on on the other side of the hill better than most men.”
This post first appeared on the old Cassini Reviews website.