Posey's Tips & Tricks

Are IT Pros Becoming Obsolete?

Even though cloud technology is drastically altering how IT does its job, there will still be a need for tech pros in the modern enterprise.

Last week I had a long conversation in which I tried to explain to someone some of the basic concepts of public cloud, self-service provisioning, hybrid cloud, and software as a service. As the person began to make sense of the information, he asked me why IT professionals utilize such technologies when those technologies have the potential to make IT pros obsolete.

Although the question caught me a little bit off guard, it was a fair question. In fact, it's something that I think most IT pros have probably wondered at one time or another. I have to confess that there was a time when I seriously considered a career change because I assumed that cloud services would be the death of IT.

Today, I look at things much differently than I did back then. Cloud services do not mean that it's game over for IT, but they do mean that the game is changing. Even so, this has always been par for the course for IT pros. Let me give you an example.

Back in 1998, I earned my MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) certification. At the time, MCSE was arguably the best certification that you could get. It demonstrated proficiency in technologies such as Windows NT Server, Windows NT Workstation, Windows 95 and much more. The certification required exam candidates to pass a series of rigorous exams, which meant memorizing a lot of information.

Even though in the late '90s MCSE certifications were once seriously in demand, they have long since been completely obsolete. In fact, I have occasionally mentioned Windows NT while speaking at various tech events and am sometimes surprised by just how many people have never even heard of Windows NT. It isn't that those people are uneducated, but rather that Windows NT Server is a relic from decades ago.

The reason for this little story is to underscore the point that technology is constantly evolving. If, as an IT professional, I had earned my late '90s MCSE and then never bothered to learn anything else then I would have been rendered obsolete in the job market by changing technology. However, I do what almost everyone in IT does. I continuously learn new things, so that I can keep pace with ever changing technology.

With that in mind, I simply do not see cloud services rendering IT professionals obsolete. There are certain IT skills that are already becoming obsolete as a result of heavier adoption of cloud services, but IT pros will remain viable for the foreseeable future so long as they keep their skill set up to date and evolve with technology.

In the past, evolving with technology has usually meant learning how the latest operating system works, and staying up to date with the popular business applications. Today, however, things work a little bit differently. Microsoft has, for example, indicated that Windows 10 will be the last desktop version of Windows to be released for the foreseeable future. As such, waiting for the next Windows release and taking the certification exam probably isn't going to work (at least not for the desktop OS). Instead, I think that in order to remain viable, IT pros will need some systems architecture skills. A good understanding of business concepts and regulatory compliance couldn't hurt either.

In the future, IT pros won't be deploying operating systems or setting up applications nearly as much as they did in the past. Public or hybrid clouds will allow users to deploy their own virtual machines, and software-as-a-service cloud providers will handle most application-related tasks.

I think that an IT pro's job will probably consist of a few general tasks. First and foremost, IT pros will be needed to make multiple disparate resources work together. Think about it for a moment. If an organization has resources scattered across all manner of public clouds, then someone is going to have to keep track of it all. IT is also going to have to be responsible for identity federation and for making sure that data is accessible across clouds when necessary.

IT is also going to be responsible for security and compliance, just as they are today. In fact, maintaining security and compliance is probably going to become a much tougher job given the distributed and disjointed nature of cloud resources.

A third area where I see IT continuing to be needed is in resource management. With each cloud provider charging ongoing fees for use, it will become more important than ever for IT resources to be used efficiently, so as to avoid wasting money. IT will need to understand the businesses' needs and be able to help the business to figure out which cloud services can best help them to achieve their goals, in as cost effective a manner as possible.

In summary, the cloud is not going to render IT professionals obsolete. IT will still be needed, but the nature of the job will continue to evolve, just as it always has.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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