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Major Changes Coming from Microsoft Will Impact Your Career

Windows Server, System Center and every other key Microsoft product are now undergoing fundamental architectural and design changes, and if you don't adapt to them and embrace cloud computing, your career in IT likely will be cut short. Regardless of how much experience you have as an MCSE or MCSA, Pluralsight Curriculum Director Don Jones pointed to key changes coming from Microsoft that'll have a major impact on the careers of all IT pros and developers who specialize in all or any component of the Redmond stack.

The changes in Windows Server 2016, the move toward system automation, the shift to applications based on containers,  Microsoft's cloud-first approach and  a move to continuous updates will all require IT pros to gain new skills. Speaking at the TechMentor conference on Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Wash., which, like Redmond, is produced by 1105 Media, Jones' stern warning to attendees was to keep up on these changes and get educated accordingly "or run calculations on the days you have until retirement."

Jones, a cochair of the TechMentor conference (and a former Redmond columnist), also warned that IT pros who aren't proficient in PowerShell -- or have people on their teams who are -- will face problems. It should be noted that Jones is a longtime proponent of using PowerShell and scripting for automation and is a cofounder and president of PowerShell.org.

"It's PowerShell or bust," Jones said. "That's the future." That's because in order to use the forthcoming Windows Server 2016 Nano Server, administrators will have to rely on PowerShell remoting since the server OS won't support video connections or have a GUI.  "How many of you have administrators [and] server admins who are not comfortable with PowerShell? That's a limiting career decision. You're still going to have GUIs. Even Nano has a GUI. Nano is actually going to offer a Web-based GUI, potentially even in the cloud, that connects to the actual Nano server via PowerShell remoting. They are not going to run on the server."

Jones warned that learning PowerShell is a major undertaking. "The thing is if you're not doing anything with PowerShell already, and I don't want to say this in a bad way, you've kind of missed the boat. PS has gone from a curve to a giant block, and it's a lot to learn, if you can devote enough time you can still learn this tech. But, my god, don't wait any longer."

Perhaps the best route is to learn Desired State Configuration, or DSC, the "forward-evolution" of PowerShell, Jones suggested. "It is literally the most important management service that Microsoft has ever created. And if you're thinking, 'well my company is not sure if we want to use it,' you should consider whether that company deserves your time or not. Or whether you would be safer career wise someplace else. This is a big deal... saying we're not going to use DSC is like saying we're not putting gas in the car but we'd still like to drive it."

Here are some other changes coming from Redmond to some of its core products that IT pros will need to adopt to, according to Jones:

System Center: Microsoft's systems management platform in 10 years will look nothing like it does today, yet will remain critical as Microsoft offers fewer tools in the operating system itself. "If you've never used the System Center products before, you need to start becoming familiar what they can do, particularly System Center Virtual Machine Configuration Manager and things like Operations Manager," he said. "Pieces of it will move to the cloud, pieces of it will live on premises and pieces of it will change completely."

Hybrid Cloud: Jones said those who ignore the rise of cloud computing architectures will be making fatal career mistakes. Take Windows Server 2016 and beyond. The new operating system release with the Azure Stack shows a shift toward Microsoft upgrading its public cloud infrastructure and throwing those pieces into Windows Server releases.  So even your datacenters will evolve into cloud environments, he said. "You ignore this cloud thing at a very high risk to your career," he said. "It is not going to be long before every single corporation of any size has got some workload in the cloud." How should IT pros skill themselves for this shift?  "I think you need to be doing something so that you get familiar with incorporating your on premises services with certain cloud services. I'm not saying you have to migrate all of your stuff to the cloud -- that is not the right answer for most organizations. But you need to start looking at the workloads that are suitable and doing some pilots so you as a person can get familiar with it whether your company appreciates it or not. How many of you can could draw a meaningful picture and walk me though the process of setting up a VPN from on-premises into a private section of Azure? That is a core skill."

Big Data: One of the most ambiguous and disliked term in IT, the ability to process massive amounts of data to facilitate the move toward better systems automation will be important, Jones said. "Imagine scraping every single log and performance monitor counter you have and, constantly being able to predict what that data means based on past patterns. This is adding a lot of operational intelligence and insights to IT operations and is a big part of automation. Big data for us is where it loops it back into automation. We look for trends, patterns and correlations. These are all important things."

Heterogeneity: The dream of working in all Windows environments is long gone, Jones notes. And specializing in just one operating system is not going to be the accepted norm moving forward.  "If you don't know how to do some basic maintenance on a Mac or have ever  built a Linux device, it's a good hobby take up because it's going to be a key part of your career," Jones advised. "This is a good way to hedge your bets."

Exchange Server: It's no secret that high on the list of endangered species are Exchange administrators thanks to the rapid push toward Office 365 and hosted versions of the e-mail platform. "Don't bet the rest of your career on a counter argument to something like Exchange is going to go away," he said. "Have a plan B."

Active Directory:  The ability to configure and manage Azure Active Directory and AD Connect are critical. Those who earn a living by adding users to Active Directory are the equivalent to those who pump gas at full service stations.  "If you have someone in your organization because they add users to Active Directory, that paycheck is in threat," he said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 08/05/2015 at 1:31 PM


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