Attack of the killer clouds and the coming IT storm

Debbie Downers are out in full force, predicting IT's end at the hands of cloud computing, but facts point to the contrary

I mentioned it recently: Private cloud is killing the IT pro. However, I was being somewhat facetious, and my prediction applies solely to hardware IT "pros" who spend their days looking for red lights on server and switch bezels to swap out components. At this point, I'm not even sure we're categorizing that job as a strictly IT-oriented profession. Isn't that slowly blending into facilities management? For me, an IT pro covers both hardware and software: bezel green light configuration along with software server configuration.

Aside from my off-the-cuff mention, I've also recently read it elsewhere: Cloud computing is set to push the IT pro career over the cliff and into extinction. I can't get onboard with that, not only because it would put a certain IT snark out of business, but because all evidence points at the opposite. IT pros, your gig isn't going anywhere, but it is changing.

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Then again, when hasn't change been the norm? From the bad old days of mainframes, pocket protectors, and sausage parties, we've evolved to Prada (sometimes), tablets, and supermodels buying us drinks in bars. OK, that last one's a little optimistic, but you get the point. Our business has been under constant evolution, and it's moving even more quickly right now. Still, that doesn't spell doom for the IT pro. It's change ... again.

Death by cloud and virtualization

The specific IT dodo myth tends to revolve around the specter of virtualization combined with the private and public cloud. This multiheaded monster will turn all networks into self-sustaining, self-configuring, self-remediating benevolent SkyNets and, thus, kill the IT pro. When you have instant infrastructure provisioning, policy-based scalability, and a network that runs at the cut-and-paste level, not the crack-the-rack level, who needs IT pros?

But even with market studies showing increased adoption of the cloud for all those benefits, has it cost anyone their job? I'm really asking. Ping me if you are one of the deceased or witnessed the same.

Sure, you can hop onto AWS and provision a Windows Server in a few minutes. But is that enough for anyone? Combining a cloud network with your HQ network, from layer 2 to layer 7, keeping identity management clean, knowing when and where to implement security, creating all those instabuild workload-provisioning policies, testing and patching the whole thing -- how is all that decreasing the need for IT?

The myth hangs that prediction mainly on automation. According to Microsoft and VMware, we can automate everything. Sure -- and I have a bargain for you on a bridge to Brooklyn. To this day, those guys can't even 100 percent agree on what a private cloud is, let alone how to automate one.

Just last year, I watched some poor sap try to build a full-on Microsoft private cloud. When he got to the app management and automation stage, he started crying and didn't stop until a PowerShell witch doctor showed up, sacrificed a chicken, and coded what amounts to a black box made of scripts, Gandalf's walking stick, and Harry Potter's spleen. That was in a test environment -- try it in a production environment under time and budget pressure and you'll feel like you've been roped in to a trapeze act with your infant sister and a terrified Doberman.  

That raving lunatic also wasn't paying much attention to virtual networking. Maybe someday software-defined networking will make network management easier, but not today. Network management is primarily about diagnostics, deep layer performance management, capacity planning, big-time security, and the usual patching and testing routine especially when the network suddenly expands locally or chews its way past your firewall. SDN doesn't change a lot of that; it just moves it up a few layers.

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