What's behind Choice Hotels' massive IT hiring?

Choice Hotels International is hiring 100 IT specialists for full-time, permanent positions at its Phoenix headquarters. The hotel chain is expanding into new markets and needs experienced information technology employees who understand new technology, said Todd Davis, Choice's CIO.

Davis told Fierce CIO the push to hire is really around a few things, and all business and market driven. Technology is a big part of the travel industry and mobile is growing, he said.

“We are competing in the marketplace through Internet distribution, marketing and so forth,” Davis said. “We're expanding into new markets, and that would include international markets, so there is a lot of capabilities of things that we're doing to be able to provide to both the customer and our franchisees in international markets.

“We're creating new lines of business. Our operating performance has been extremely well, and part of that is not only because of our brands and our marketing, but the technology we've put in place. It ties back to our global distribution platform. That system must be kept strong and running fast, because from a consumers' standpoint, when they're on the website they don't want to have to wait. We also made it very easy to do a three-point booking on our mobile app to book a reservation."

Davis, a cloud advocate, is considering moving Choice Hotels' most critical software systems to Amazon Web Services, Information Week reports. That would include its central reservation systems, which send out room availability to travel websites and funnel back reservations to individual hotels. Already, Choice Hotels' core systems are designed to run in an unmanned, dark data center — tractor trailers packed with Dell hardware that the IT team monitors from an operations center. The cloud puts pressure on infrastructure talent in two big ways, Davis said.

First, the cloud vendors themselves are big competitors for infrastructure talent. "They keep stealing those people, whether it's from my company or some other company. Then you have to go find another Linux server administrator, or someone like that, who's highly skilled. And they're difficult to find -- it takes longer to find those people."

Second, the cloud's virtualized, scale-out approach to computing makes infrastructure more complex, and thus it makes the needed skills harder to find. In a virtualized, software-defined data center, "making that resilient and understanding how it works, and making it easy to manage, versus the physical aspect of how I used to line up 10,000 servers, is very different," Davis said.