Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Demand for Data Puts Engineers in Spotlight

Mechanical engineers making a comeback!
In Silicon Valley, the stars have long been charismatic marketing visionaries and cool-nerd software wizards. By contrast, mechanical engineers who design and run computer data centers were traditionally regarded as little more than blue-collar workers in the high-tech world.

For years, they toiled in relative obscurity in the engine rooms of the digital economy, amid the racks of servers and storage devices that power everything from online videos to corporate e-mail systems. Their mission was to keep the computing power plants humming, while scant thought was given to rising costs and energy consumption.

Today, data center experts are no longer taken for granted. The torrid growth in data centers to keep pace with the demands of Internet-era computing, their immense need for electricity and their inefficient use of that energy pose environmental, energy and economic challenges, experts say.

That means people with the skills to design, build and run a data center that does not endanger the power grid are suddenly in demand. Their status is growing, as are their salaries — climbing more than 20 percent in the last two years into six figures for experienced engineers.

Mechanical and electrical engineers with experience in data center design, air-flow modeling and power systems management are in demand. “If you have those skills, there are jobs waiting,” says Phil Calabrese, a mechanical engineer and director of I.B.M.’s real estate engineering and construction unit.

“After 25 years, we’re finally elevating mechanical engineering and adding a lot of electrical engineering, computer science and applied physics,” said Mr. Patel of Hewlett-Packard.

One of the last engineering jobs I had before coming back to school was helping design and set-up a remote monitoring center for power plants that included a small, on-site data center. Maybe after I finish up my PhD in economics and my law degree here at GMU, it will be time to go back to being an engineer?

1 comment:

thinking said...

With all the emphasis on energy production these days, and the fact that this focus will only intensify in the years to come, it is not surprising that these engineers are coming back to greater demand.

And those who can come up with better ideas for creating or conserving energy will become a new class of entrepreneurs, much like those in the tech or biotech worlds.