From the banking industry to MySpace, unstructured digital information is growing at an astronomical pace.
A recent IDC study projected a sixfold growth in worldwide information between 2006 and 2010, from 161 exabytes in 2006 to more than 988 exabytes in 2010.
All of this data requires storage, and enterprises are struggling to find ways to keep their data organized, well-managed and easily retrievable.
"You're talking about anything and everything that resides electronically. In the past, companies tracked purchases by pen and paper and stored it in a file cabinet. But now everything from debit card transactions to customer data is stored infinitely. It proliferates every year, the files are getting more and more complex," and it is important that they remain accessible, Technology Business Research Group analyst Allan France told eWEEK.
Storage infrastructure giant EMC anticipates that 1 million storage professionals will be needed by 2012, right about the time when a generation gap is expected to rear its head across the U.S. workforce. According to Forrester Research, 76 million baby boomers will be exiting the U.S. workforce by 2017, with only 46 million younger workers in line to replace them.
In an effort to take the matter into its own hands, EMC has created a vendor-neutral technology curriculum that teaches computer science students how to design and manage IT infrastructures. EMC announced Feb. 14 that more than 4,000 students in 170 schools in nine countries have already enrolled in the class, a 150 percent increase from 2006, the first year the class was available.
"The idea is that storage is growing and the number of people who have expertise in designing, implementing and organizing information is insufficient. That this is a lapse in education systems. Information storage is considered an advanced topic," EMC's director of education services, Alok Shrivatava, told eWEEK.
EMC's approach is not unlike that of another technology giant, IBM, which has worked with high schools and universities all over the world in an effort to ensure that there will be a population of IT professionals able to program and maintain their legacy systems.
EMC feels that workers will be needed who know how to keep data running smoothly, from allocating resources to different groups, to troubleshooting, to even disaster recovery, which is largely about data recovery.
However, not all are convinced that IT jobs in the storage infrastructure area will grow in pace with digital information.
"Clearly the job demand isn't going to follow the same curve, but it will grow," said France.
Instead, the work will be on the planning and organizing side, such as designing systems that allow businesses to lower their storage costs, by prioritizing data and using less or more expensive systems accordingly. Software developments, however, not people, are expected to be the biggest innovator of storage solutions in the coming years.
"You're going to be able to do more management with less people. The software will lay out rules-such as documents on a certain topic being automatically allocated to a certain compartment-and putting more automation in place," said France.