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Microsoft IT Winds of Change Part 2: Call for Smarter IT Pros and Private Cloud Expertise

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Things are changing in the Microsoft IT world. It's happening slowly, but it's happening. We've reached an inflection point, or are reaching it soon – and whether or not today's IT administrators continue to have a job (or at least, the same job) is very much in question.

Now Hiring Smarter IT Pros
Microsoft has moved firmly into the platform world, with many of the native product administration tools being almost afterthoughts. Use Active Directory Users & Computers to manage a large directory? I don't think so.

Microsoft has realized that it can never build tools that will meet everyone's needs, and so the native tools are just the bare-bones basics that a small organization might be able to get by on. Instead, Microsoft is focusing more and more on building platforms -- great functionality. But how do you administer those platforms?

This is the new inflection point in the Microsoft IT world. Increasingly, Microsoft is giving us the building blocks for tools. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that let us touch product functionality directly and build our own tools. Microsoft even has a word for the new IT discipline: DevOps. In part, it means operations folks (admins) taking more responsibility for programming their own tools, so that they can implement their organization's specific processes.

Yes, programming. In many cases, the new operations API will be Windows PowerShell -- but not in all cases. You'll also be using tools like System Center Orchestrator, and may use ISV tools that let you build out your business processes.

In a way, this is completely unfair to the loyal Microsoft server fan. They got on board by clicking Next, Next, Finish, when the rest of the world was off running command-line tools and writing Perl scripts. Now, Microsoft is yanking the rug out from under them. "Psych! Turns out you have to be a programmer after all!"

But there's a reason for it -- and you can either embrace that reasoning, or close your eyes and wait for it to run you over.

Forget Private Cloud. Call it Util-IT-y.
So why is Microsoft so focused on making its loyal IT professionals become scripters and programmers? Funnily enough, it's the private cloud.

Go over to GoDaddy and buy a Web site for yourself. Or, go to Amazon and buy some AWS time. In both cases, you will not find some human being Remote Desktop-ing into a server to spin up a new VM, provision your service, and send you a confirmation e-mail. It's all done automatically when an authorized user (you, a paying customer) requests it. Hosting organizations like GoDaddy and AWS don't treat IT as overhead, they treat it as enablers. Their IT folks focus mainly on building tools that automate the entire business process. Someone buys a Web site, and an automated process kicks off that makes it happen. Nobody sits and monitors it or even pays much attention to it -- it's automated.

That kind of functionality is where "private cloud" got its name. The idea is that your own datacenter (if we're still allowed to call it "datacenter") exhibits those cloud-like behaviors. Marketing needs a Web site? Fine -- it'll push a button, and a requisition gets approved, and lo, there is a Web site. IT doesn't get involved. We built the tool that made it happen once all the right approvals were in place, but we didn't click the individual buttons to set up the VM and the Web site, or whatever. We automated it, using tools like System Center, PowerShell or whatever.

But I hate the term "private cloud." I really do. I much prefer the term utility.

When your organization needs a new fax phone line, you go through some internal business process to obtain the necessary authorization. The phone company isn't involved in that. Once you have approval to pay the bill, you tell the phone company to spin up the line. More often than not, someone on their end pushes a button and lo, a fax line is born. They didn't walk out into the Central Office and manually connect wires together -- that's so 1980. It's all automated, and it "just works." It's a utility.

And that's what IT needs to become. We stay out of the business process. We stop being the gatekeepers for IT services. We stop manually implementing those services. Someone wants something, they get approval and push a button. We just make the buttons do something.

And this is why the private cloud means you're going to lose your job…

Is it evolve or die for the Microsoft IT admin? Don Jones will give you his assessment in his final installment of the Microsoft IT Winds of Change blog series.

Posted by Don Jones on 03/25/2013 at 1:14 PM

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 EVVJSK

Microsoft has only recently gotten the vision for automation. They did a decent job with vbscript, but have not moved away from it. They also had previous CMD/BAT file, but are drifting away from it. Let's hope they are going to leave PowerShell alone and just extend it in an orderly way. Many Microsoft people are tired of them abandoning the old.

Mon, Mar 25, 2013 Rich Arizona

I don't hear of IT admins being laid off in droves and yet its been repeated for years now. All I hear is companies adding to their services and using more IT. Anybody here ever hear of or get laid off due to your job being automated or going to the cloud? Probably not...

Mon, Mar 25, 2013 Steve M. Cleveland, OH

I love the idea of automation, but it scales down poorly. There's a threshold where it becomes a worthwhile time investment, but for smaller shops (I'd say maybe less than 200 users, but less than 100 for sure) it's a royal waste of time.

Mon, Mar 25, 2013 Rob B. Denver

Automation has been a buzz word in admin computing for a long time. Only recently with IT departments running on "empty", concerning staff, has automation come into it's own as a cost saver in the IT budget. I believe there will be a 'human' admin element for a while longer, which may manifest as the upper level user support. Staff that can explain to the users what is happening, or why it is not, when systems or apps fail. We all know most, but not all, Dev types shouldn't converse w/ users as the situations rarely get resolved that way. As an Admin/sys eng./net eng./DC eng. most of us do much more universal work outside the server framework as well, so we will be here a while longer.

Sun, Mar 24, 2013 ahanse sun burnt oz

It is way past the use by date for all those de-facto IT staff.... If Microsoft was responsible for bringing them into prominence then dang it all they should help get rid of dem all.... When did you start associating powershell with programming?... reams of cyber space was taken up with that point... no matter powershell works and Microsoft seems to want it too, but you make it sound like a magic bullet... I am interested in the tool *whatever* so will keep an eye out for any new articles.

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