It's now or never for old sysadmins to learn new tricks
Watch out for your jobs, says Trevor Pott
Follow the rocky road
Instead of trying to find some niche in IT that hasn't yet been commoditised and hiding out there until they come for that job too, I have decided to embrace the dark side.
Instead of running one shop I run 20. I use software and technologies that allow me to automate the businesses and charge a small retainer to monitor the systems and be there in case of emergency.
There is a lot of risk in becoming a managed service provider. It means going into business for yourself and that is always a rough road. Yet if you have a desire to do more than hold your financial ground this may be the only realistic path for many admins.
When one SME can no longer be expected to support your salary in a software-defined, cloud as-a-service world, you have to look to multiple companies to fill that function.
If you aren't already doing DevOps, then you are probably dead and you just don't know it yet
The closest thing to a true evolutionary path for sysadmins is the transition to DevOps. If your company qualifies as commercial midmarket and you aren't already doing DevOps, then you are probably dead and you just don't know it yet.
I work with companies with as few as 15 staff that have custom, in-house software. Many others need to beat software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions into some semblance of utility, often involving building custom parsers (which usually evolve into middleware stacks) that pull information out of one SaaS app and insert it into another.
Even as I see these smaller companies pulling away from managing their own in-house infrastructure, I see their demand increase for software tools that bind various bits of infrastructure together into a cohesive whole.
It is not quite development, it is not quite operations, but it is in demand.
Find the exit
Positioned at the heart of the DevOps movement, Puppet has done a lot of research on the subject. The company has done surveys for years and certainly talked to people from all over the industry.
At first blush I found some results hard to swallow, but it is hard to poke holes in its methodology. After nearly an hour on the phone with their survey team the best I managed was to convince them to add a couple questions for next year.
The future of IT is pretty clear: we won't be administering systems as we do today. Configurations will be dynamic, states imposed based on responses rather than pre-determined conditions.
We are still a long way from that for most places – but the world changes fast. It takes years to reskill an individual and in those years our entire industry will have reinvented itself at least once.
Traditional administration jobs will become fewer and farther between. Picking an exit path is looking more important with each passing month.
Which path will you choose? Why? What options have I missed? The comments section is below; you know what to do. ®
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