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Before I get into this post I know the term Private Cloud is a dirty word for many IT Professionals, partly because it is seen as marketing fluff and partly because each vendor seems to have their own definition. The Private Cloud definition Microsoft uses is from the National Institute of Science & Technology. I don’t accept this as spin, it’s about taking best practice from running large scale data centres and making it available as techniques and software to those organisations who can’t or won’t move their services to a public cloud provider. This provides some of the tangible benefits of the public cloud like greater agility and efficiency but in your own data centre or one run specifically on your behalf. The key to this management and specifically automation; automation to respond automatically to known events and automation to requests for change from customers.
Automation means less human intervention, giving repeatability and consistency with a by product of reduced response times to requests. However the human bit of human intervention is the IT Professional so does that mean that they are so much excess baggage in a modern organisation?
To answer that I will use the same roles my desktop counterpart Simon May used in his article about the affects of the public cloud on IT Departments:
The helpdesker (a.k.a. Frontline support analyst)
These guys are still needed especially in dealing with the “how do I?” request from the users, but of course their ability to help individuals will be limited by the service level the business want from the help desk. Cutting back the help desk can be short sighted as their ability to help the user population can greatly increase their productivity, but this is hard to measure and therefore this might be under threat as well.
In a private cloud world a helpdesk request for “fix it for me it’s broken” , should mean that the helpdesk team will know about some issues before they arise because of there will be management tools like System Center in place. The service monitoring tools will tell them that a service is down while the desktop management suite will pick up any issue with the user’s desktop ( be it physical or virtual) before they do. So less time spent searching for what’s wrong leaving more time to concentrate on resolving the issue.
The desktop technician (a.k.a. 2nd level support, a.k.a “Dave in IT”)
If the desktop itself is the problem then in a private cloud style world this is either a commoditised or virtualised and can be swapped out. Even in the world of VDI the desktop is the desktop and most tech problems are down to drivers apps and connectivity, so these guys will still be pretty busy. However remote administration either with EasyAssist in Win 7 or Remote Desktop means that problems can be solved remotely. In my world Dave is a guy in Salt Lake City or Ravi in Hyderabad depending on the time of day. This is a good thing as we have 24 hour cover and we can be green and inclusive in our workforce by giving these people the tools to work at home.
The other key request that goes through the service desk , is requests for something new be it an application, a service on a virtual machine or a new starter will all be automated once the request has been through an approval process. This will have an impact on the size of the team but this should be offset by spending more time on strategic projects like implementing upgrades and designing new services.
The server huggers
On the surface of it, the private cloud is much more likely to the number of data centre administrators by allowing each one to manage many more servers (be they physical or virtual).
Actually these guys are already in decline as physical servers are virtualised. However virtualisation alone is NOT private cloud so this decline could be offset by out of control virtual server sprawl. However the routine administration of servers has already been outsourced in many companies and government departments, and the pressure is on the large system integrators (Cap Gemini, CSC, EDS etc.) who now run those data centres to make further savings and pass them onto their customers.
So for my money the only roles at risk are the ones that involve a lot of repetitive process, and lets face humans aren’t too good at that. Of course this type of work has already been eroded by offshoring and outsourcing so actually Private Cloud is just evolution not revolution here. Also skills in data and user management will continue to be required as before no matter where the database, mailbox , content management system actually is. The other thing to bear in mind is that the automation the private cloud brings to the data centre will be balanced by increased demand for richer services , compliance and the raw demand to store more stuff.
I think uncertainty is the issue here; uncertainty about the survival of your business, the future of your role in it, and if you have been doing the same thing for a while what else is out there. I can’t advise you on how to fix your business but the mitigation for all of theses issues is education and training. You don’t needed to outrun the lion of redundancy you just need to be running faster than the other guys he’s chasing, and to do that in a toughening job market you need more skills and the right attitude.
So my top tip would be to start with the free Microsoft Virtual Academy before going on to some wider or later certification. If you aren’t in work at all right now then Britain Works would be the place to start.