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Virtualization University: Will the new green data center degree prepare you?

It was only a matter of time before you could get a degree in virtualization. IBM has created a two-year associates degree in green data center management.

The program, developed in conjunction with Metropolitan Community College of Omaha, teaches skills in virtualization and server consolidation, energy efficiency, security and compliance and business issues that arise in the data center. It’s unclear whether those issues include IT in-fighting between networking, systems and storage teams.

What the program does promise is problem-solving in a real-world setting — if your real world is built on IBM hardware and software. The school’s data center lab includes IBM Power Systems servers running AIX, IBM I and Linux.

Until now, there haven’t been viable options for vendor-neutral virtualization certifications, but companies like VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and Red Hat all offer specialization courses. There are generalized data center certifications and degrees, though those are typically on the graduate level.

But at a time when the data center is diversifying in vendor offerings and equipment, it’s questionable whether students should invest their money and time in such a vendor-focused program. That said Cisco made its equipment the holy grail of networking in large part by partnering with community colleges to build network certification programs — and it’s clear CCNAs and CCIEs the world over have gotten their foot in the door and then learned diverse technologies on their feet.

What makes this degree attractive despite its vendor affiliation is its focus on virtualization as a central part of the data center. Along with the rise in virtualization has come a plethora of management issues and in-fighting about who controls virtual machines – networking, systems or storage. Forrester analyst Rob Whiteley has suggested the answer is the emergence of a new “virtualization administrator.” If that’s the case, this degree – and others like it that will soon pop up – may be the first step toward that role.

Metropolitan will offer the IBM green data center course (virtually of course) to students at other participating universities.

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IBM's initiative to create and support a college-level degree program in green data center management is a strong step in the right direction for the industry and the world. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency forecasts that unless data centers across the country make significant changes in their structures and approach power consumption will reach 100 billion kWh by 2011 (consumption was about 61 billion kWh in 2006). The typical data center energy costs today are up to 15 times that of a typical office building, according to studies conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. And the savings from going green can be substantial: Approximately $86.85 per square foot for an average center. As more people shift into areas of green responsibility, pushed along by educational programs like that supported by IBM, we will see tremendous savings in energy and a definite improvement in the global environment.
FYI: Today, 21 SEP 2009, Arrow Electronics became the exclusive distributor of Integrated Monitoring Solutions IMS EDX DC-3™ Monitoring Solution for Data Centers.