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IT Infrastructure Career Guide

When Viresh Gupta, the Head of Data Centre Operation, J&K Bank, received a call from the bank’s Mumbai Disaster Recovery Site to say that it had stopped replicating data from the production site, he knew this had to be addressed immediately. This should be a serious alarm bell for any bank. Typically, banks store all information at the Production (Data) Centre. In addition, all back-up is taken at the Data Recovery Centre, Which is usually located at a different city, so that in case anything happens to the main site, on account of technical failure or natural calamity, operations can run in a seamless manner.

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Facts


Why bother?

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The outsourcing infrastructure market could be as big as $111 billion, and is virtually untapped.

How do I progress in this profession?

Continuous learner, problem-solving aptitude, leadership ability.

Where am I ten years from now?

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Senior Manager

What’s in it for me?

Play a crucial role in the running of the company.

What is it?


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Viresh Gupta immediately flew with his team to the Mumbai facility and after 48 hours of non-stop work was able to get the Disaster Recovery Site up and running. Fortunately, no problems emerged at the main production site during this period, enabling the bank and its customers to conduct business as usual. It was on this day that the role of the data center’s team became very clear. Its role lies at the core of almost every organization. The data centre is a part of the umbrella term “IT Infrastructure”. IT infrastructure management services involve monitoring and managing a company’s IT backbone – that broadly comprises the data centre. IT network, other IT applications and technical help support.

The data center, also sometimes called a server farm, is a facility used to house computer systems (mostly servers) and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems, to run the applications which handle the core business and operational data of the organization. The role of the data center manager is to ensure the smooth running of the data center and its applications.

Then there is the IT network, that consists of the networking components such as the routers, switches, leased line, internet connection, etc., that takes information from the data center to the end users and back. The IT network manager has to monitor links, ensure they are optimally utilized and also undertake the design of the network.

The technical help consists of people whom we always call when there is something wrong with our desktop or our internet connection or any other computer-related problem.

An organization can decide to manage its IT Infrastructure in the following manner:

  • Manage it in-house. This is how it happened traditionally. However over time, as IT infrastructure has become large and complex, firms have been open to using specialized players to manage it.
  • Outsource all or part of its IT Infrastructure. For example, a company would be more willing to outsource the technical help desk than its data center.
  • Within outsourcing, a firm might choose a vender that manages it on an ‘onshore’ model (i.e. client locations) or an offshore remote model or a mix of both. For example, Pronto Networks specializes in the deployment and management support of the wireless internet service infrastructure network of its clients world wide.

Why is it needed?


IT operations are a crucial aspect of most organisational operations. The need for faster access to information, demanding customers, etc., have made firms invest in bigger and better IT networks which allow better access to data, customer response, reduced uptime, security, and so on.

One of the main concerns is business continuity; companies rely on their information systems to run their operations. If a system becomes unavailable, company operations may be impaired or stopped completely. It is necessary to provide a reliable infrastructure for IT operations in order to minimize and chance of disruption.

For these reasons, firms will want to have the best IT infrastructure in place to keep their competitive edge. It is this reason which is leading to bigger and better IT infrastructure for companies and job opportunities. At the same time firms are looking for specialists to come and ensure trouble-free working of their infrastructure.

Drivers of Growth


In addition, there are different factors that are driving the growth of the outsourced IT infrastructure industry. First, it could be either the lower cost or specialized domain knowledge of such firms. Secondly, IT firms in this field also give the option to companies to take their assets (IT infrastructure) on their own books. Fourth, greater focus; when Bharti signed a $750 million deal with IBM in 2004, involving its data center management, end-user support, help desk activities and network management, the rationale given by the company chairman, Sunil Mittal, was that his company would be better off focusing its time, management and efforts on processes that directly improve shareholder value. The successful execution of the deal, evident from further deals Bharti has undertaken for outsourcing infrastructure, have made other companies take notice of the benefits of IT outsourcing. Other Indian telco-operators have also begun to outsource parts of their business, such as call center operations, applications-based services and content.

On the supply side, global IT firms, such as EDC and IBM, were quick to realize the potential of this opportunity, and started offering it as a specialized service with the proposition of lower cost and domain knowledge to firms; this lead to growth of outsourcing IT infrastructure management.

Indian IT firms are also realising the potential of this sector and are developing their capabilities based on low-cost proposition and competing with the global players.

According to Forrester Research, the outsource infrastructure market could be as big as $111 billion compared to an estimated of $120 billion for IT services and it is virtually untapped.

As Indian firms have built a reputation in delivering IT services in an offshore model, companies are more open to the idea of outsourcing infrastructure management to Indian firms. Indian firms are able to offer an attractive low-cost proposition to these firms. Add to this the fact that India has a large pool of cheap workforce – willing to work in the ‘back-office’ environment – with neutral accent and high understanding of technology.

What are the related paths in this career that you can pursue?


Depending upon the whether one joins the IT operation of a company or a specialized outsourcing company, the career paths would vary:

In the case of IT operation of a company, one could join in any one of the areas:

  • Data center management
  • Network management
  • Other IT applications
  • Technical help desk support

Within these technical roles, over time, the role quickly evolves to things like undertaking managerial responsibilities and evaluating various investment decisions.

In the case of specialized outsourcing companies, one could gain exposure across industries as well in addition to client development responsibilities, as one move to senior roles.

Depending upon company policies, one can find the opportunity to move across different areas.

Why should you choose this career?


Viresh Gupta, Data Center Head, JnK Bank says, “I was fresh out of engineering college and joined the bank after clearing an entrance exam. At that time, the bank did not have the concept of centralized data management. However, as the branch network spread, we realized that we couldn’t manage the work load in a decentralized system. A decision was then taken to move towards a superior, centralized system. As I had been working with the bank for over 15 years, I was given the opportunity to be part of the team to manage the new centralized data center. The new set-up has greatly improved the efficiency of the bank.”

What are the required skill sets?


One doesn’t necessarily have to be from an engineering background to get into this field. In addition, a number of certifications are being offered in the market (CDCP, CMM, CISCO certification, etc.) which are also added qualifications.

  • Continuous learner: Technology in this space is evolving rapidly. One needs to regularly keep oneself abreast of developments.
  • Problem-solving aptitude: To be able to ensure that system runs smoothly 24×7, one continuously needs to anticipate problem areas and try to solve them proactively.
  • Leadership ability: Executives grow into leadership roles quickly. They need to keep their teams motivated and ensure their development in a fast changing technological environment.

What makes people successful in this career?


  • Aptitude for problem solving: A typical day would involve various problems to be resolved to ensure smooth functioning of center/network. Emphasis is on ensuring process efficiency.
  • Ability to take initiative: From the beginning, team members are encouraged to give inputs for process improvements and see them getting implemented.
  • Strong customer handling skills: Handling customer escalations effectively requires more than just technical knowledge. The ability to really listen to and understand customer problems, being patient and having clarity in communication are required. Handling customer escalations, effectively dealing with cross-cultural customers/teams require strong inter-communication skills.
  • Adaptability: JnK Bank has a start-up culture – employees are expected to express their opinions freely to their managers and participate in decision making which then happens more quickly. Employees are also encouraged to move across roles to gain a wider exposure.

What are the risks of choosing this career?


The industry is becoming increasingly competitive, with the need for improvement in operational efficiency, year after year. The need for performing a process efficiently and effectively is the foremost concern for the managers. This career is for someone who is always up to this challenge.

Sample Job Description


  • To maintain the Network Operations within respective responsibilities realm.
  • Provide network continuity and innovation in supporting relevant lines of business.
  • Manage escalations where appropriate.
  • Ensure issue resolution by taking ownership on all issues receive as first Contact.

Key Result Areas


  • Plan and execute a network strategy that is in conformity with the short and long term network planning.
  • Ensure that requirement and priorities are properly defined and are in line with business needs.
  • Prepare personal MBO’s in alignment with team MBO guidelines
  • Evaluate new and emerging technologies.
  • Implement, analyze and operate network plans.
  • Monitor systems ensure to device are meeting expectations and report findings.
  • Take ownership of First contact issues.
  • Provide technical direction to the junior staff to ensure that standards and procedures are followed.
  • Interact and cooperate with other internal support groups to facilitate resolution of user problems.

Knowledge, Skills and Experience


  • Good oral and written communication skills, ability to articulate network issues.
  • Able to work individually and as a team member.
  • Strong troubleshooting skills.
  • Training and experience in networking protocols.
  • Knowledge of network standards and practices.
  • Knowledge and understanding of technologies in his realm of operation.
  • Experience in dealing with users.
  • College degree or equivalent experience.
  • 3+ years of network experience.
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