John Howard - Senior Program Manager in the Hyper-V team at Microsoft

Senior Program Manager, Hyper-V team, Windows Core Operating System Division.

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The future of the Windows-centric IT Pro?

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I looked at Monad briefly a couple of months ago - after all it's still a reasonably long way off yet, probably in the Longhorn timeframe. However, there's been a couple of articles just posted on the Internet looking at the future of "shell scripting" (forgive borrowing the Unix terminology) in Windows, for example here on WindowsITPro and here on RedmondMag.

Even though I'm probably now leading myself down a path where I'm going to be flamed from all sides...... where as I see Monad as a huge benefit in the long term, my concern has to be that it is going to scare the wits out of most Windows-centric IT Pro's in the community at large - this is drawing a very thin line between developers and IT Pros. Although somewhat generalising, it is (in my humble opinion) reasonably well accepted that many *nix administrators are comfortable understanding or authoring complex shell scripts, and further, most have a reasonable understanding of writing at least simple programs in C/Perl/PHP etc. My experience tells me that most Windows IT Pros try very hard to shy away from these types of skills.

So, a few thoughts/questions for to throw out for comment...

  • Where do you see the skill sets of IT Pros heading in the future. Windows has gone a long way with GUIs making point and click management tasks easier, but are we all going to have to get to grips with the developer 'dark'-side as well?
  • How many Windows IT Pros have at least one command prompt permanently open on their desktop today?
  • How comfortable would you feel if you were told you have to understand the .Net framework and all that goes with it to perform your job in the future?
Comments
  • that's one the reasons that Monad should be CTP'd ASAP, perhaps even a "Go-Live" license on single machines , to get "old style" admins used to it

  • From what I've seen of Monad it seems both more powerful as well as easier to grok than the equivalent *nix scripting environments I remember from uni. IMO it'll empower "pros", not alienate them.

  • The benefits of a GUI *do* extend to most system administration tasks. (A point the Unix crowd can't seem to grasp.) Consequently few admins should have either cmd.exe or monad permanently open.
    Scripting - whether sh, perl, batch file, WSH or Monad - is most often useful in edge cases where a task is either repetitive or would overly complicate a GUI (whilst you most often could accommodate such an edge case within a GUI it might interfere with more typical cases).
    Consequently Monad should be, and I have every confidence MS sees it as, a tool for advanced admins working on tasks that are so obscure that it will be unlikely to frighten the unwitting average administrator.

  • From the posts in various support forums I'd have to say many admins are struggling to deal with WSH scripts as it is.

    One can almost see a need for a specialized developer position in larger organizations to develop admin components and scripts, and to do instruction on the concepts. In smaller outfits I'm not sure how they'll limp along, a dedicated "admin script developer" isn't too practical there.

  • This kind of depends on what your definition of IT Pro is. If your view of an IT person is somebody putting a Ghost CD in a PC and imaging the drive, or adding a user to an AD server, you can probably do what you need to do through the UI.

    However, what if you're admin'ing several machines and you want to push a file to all of them? Your guy better know how to "for /f %h in (hosts.txt) do copy foo.bar \\%h\c$\fubar."

    It makes no sense for Windows-centric IT folks to "shy away" from typical Unix admin skills. It's not going to reduce your chances of needing those skills, and believe you me, you will need them at some point.

    If you're worried that people fear change, yes, that mindset does exist. However, for every person that is not interested in learning how to script via Monad, there will be another IT Pro that is very excited to finally see a way to efficiently and effectively admin a system.

  • As an "IT Pro" I'm personally very interested in seeing more powerful scripting/dev resources readily available to Windows admins. I've been starting to use WMI and hacked script templates from the Script Center (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/default.mspx) recently, and am able to get the jobs done that I need (but it's not pretty).

    My problem is that I havn't put all of the concepts together into a daily working knowledge. Having done VB6, Java, and Cobol in College I think I have some of the background, but I'm having trouble bridging the gap between "having done it", and "being able to hack my way through" to really understanding software development.