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Most solution providers by now have taken note of the fact that there are lots of changes taking place these days in the data center. Not only are whole data centers being consolidated, the job functions are evolving thanks to tighter integration across the server, storage and networking components that make up the data center.

Nowhere is that more evident than in a new generation of increasingly pre-integrated servers from companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Dell and IBM. Right now these systems are being used primarily foster higher levels of collaboration among the people responsible for servers, storage and networking. But it’s increasingly clear that as time goes on the management of these functions will increasingly converge.

In fact, it’s that very convergence that led Hewlett-Packard to revamp its entire approach to IT support. The company just announced a new Always On Support Services initiative first organizing its support staff around the management of the data center rather than specific components, and then specifically relying more on the intelligence that is increasingly being generated by these systems to automatically resolve customer issues.

According to Flynn Maloy, director of worldwide marketing for HP Technology Services, the reorganization of HP support services better reflects how IT is now being consumed and managed in the enterprise today. What’s important about this from a channel perspective is that it provides a model for delivering IT support services more profitably. Instead of thinking in terms of specialists for every class of product, solution providers should be thinking more holistically about data centers and the needs of particular customers.

That means instead of providing support services that are based around servers, storage and networking, solution providers should be thinking about developing support teams that are capable of providing support across a range of data center functions. Ultimately, that approach should result in the need for fewer engineers. Invoking the system management functions for server, storage and networking is going to not only be a lot easier, it will also be a whole lot more automated.

That doesn’t mean there still won’t be a need for product support specialists. But increasingly that level of skill can be pushed back to the second or third tier of support, or maybe even back completely on to the vendor. No matter how you look at it the IT times in the data center are changing. Solution providers should take a good hard look at how their support teams are organized in a world where not only more functions are being increasingly automated, the complexity of the support issues means they are not easily isolated to one particular product or even class of products.

Given the fact that labor remains the single highest cost of delivering IT services, reorganizing the IT support staff could easily wind up being the difference between make a modest versus robust profit.  In fact, it’s probably in the best interest of solution providers to push customers to embrace the next-generation of data center equipment if for no other reason than the cost of supporting those devices will be substantially less. Once that is accomplished, however, solution providers should aggressively move to reorganize their own support teams to better reflect new system management realities that will become increasingly apparent as more IT functions become increasingly more automated.