I recently interviewed one of our interns, Jonathan Lickiss (here), about his aspirations to be an IT Professional (IT Pro) and to callout all the useful resources at the TechNet On portal. Some would say that Jonathan is mad for selecting this as a career, and that the TechNet On site is just a piece of cynical marketing given Microsoft’s drive to provide all of its services in the cloud, and therefore make IT Pros redundant.
If you look at what has happened to the work done by an IT Pro since my dad’s time in IT (1960’s), the trend has been to automate or outsource any repeatable task. So you could just as easily point to DHCP, DNS, PowerShell, System Center or Windows 7 as sounding the death knell for the ITPro as they all get rid of this kind of work. There have also been concerns about outsourcing and taking various IT work off shore, before the cloud came along. However the number of IT jobs in the UK is still buoyant and we are still short of these skills in the UK despite the recession, if e-mail recruitment spam is anything to go by.
The main attraction of cloud is cost management, just to be clear not necessarily a reduction in cost, but management of that cost. This essentially means moving costs from capex to opex and only paying only for what is actually being used. For example, rather than trying to predict license costs and the number of servers needs and buying that upfront the business only pays for the number of active users , the amount of data used and so on. This smooths cashflow and means a business has to borrow less money from reluctant banks, i.e. Microsoft takes the risk and cost out of the business. This also improves agility as the business can rent more of what it needs when it needs it and so pay less at quiet times when the services aren’t needed.
With those kind of attractions, any finance director will want to evaluate this as an option in the same way that many businesses end up selling their offices and then renting them back, so whether Microsoft provide this service or not, the cloud is coming to a business near you.
For the IT Pro what the cloud does is remove more drudgery, such as fiddling around with actual kit. In Microsoft the intention is to go further than this and remove the need to worry about the operating system and some of the key Microsoft applications be that Exchange, SharePoint, or SQL Server. However what neither Microsoft nor any cloud provider will do for you is manage the actual data or connections to it.
It’s also important to understand that the cloud doesn’t affect some parts of the IT Pro world, like end user support. Yes there is InTune that simplifies the process (see Simon’s blog for more on this), but the helpdesk ITPro must still work with the end user to fix their problem.
The public cloud is not going to be the right answer for certain businesses, for a number of reasons be it compliance or culture. Also it will be some time before the cloud predominates and IT Pros will need to be on hand to help with transitions and integration of on and off premise services. Some services might never make it into the cloud, and a mixed economy will be the norm for some time to come, and this too will require careful management by competent IT Pros.
I think this will mean that the modern IT Pro role will evolve to one where we are much closer to the business. This might even see the end of the traditional IT department with the IT Pro becoming another specialist in a multifunction business team. This sort of IT Pro will have to put more thought, imagination, planning into their work, but will be trusted advisors to that team.
I think this will be rewarding and challenging work , and I for one can see why this is attractive to new entrants like Jonathan, as it was the boring stuff that my dad did that put me off IT.