What will be the role of the classic IT infrastructure administrator be when businesses have fully automated cloud infrastructure deployed?
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that IT application infrastructure will become autonomic in much the same way that our vital bodily functions involuntarily take place without us having to think about it. The implication is that IT administrators, as we know them today, will become obsolete. But wait! The vendor community points to a rosier horizon where IT can morph from being cost center mechanics to revenue producing magicians.
As it is with anything that gets over-hyped, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. For the time being, most administrators can breathe a temporary sigh of relief. The vast majority of businesses aren’t anywhere close to achieving the IT promised land of private cloud AWS-like giddiness. In a recent blog, I pointed to recent research that reveals that most businesses are still trying to finish the final mile of their server virtualization journeys (~85-90%). And it appears, at least for the foreseeable future, that even when businesses get to the cloud land of milk and honey, their intent is to manage their critical business workloads on-premises while selectively pushing non-business core workloads into the public cloud.
But let’s peer into our cloud time machine and ask the question again. What will the legions of IT administrators do when they are unshackled from their command line configuration keyboards? Will they walk toward the light or roam the ghostly corridors of shuttered data centers like some geeked up version of Heathcliff on the moors in Wuthering Heights?
Some of the vendors I’ve spoken with claim that IT can focus on enabling service delivery rather than infrastructure piece part maintenance. In other words, IT can help guide end-users toward selecting the appropriate application services—whether they exist on-premises or are in the public cloud. Once this match-making or arbitrage task is fulfilled, IT would then presumably act as an overseer—ensuring that SLAs are being fulfilled, costs are aligned with budgetary objectives, data governance and regulatory requirements are being met, etc.
Others often allude to opportunities for IT to act as techno-business bird dogs; identifying ways for the business to monetize data assets, leverage new technologies for entering new markets, accelerating time to market, ad infinitum. These all certainly sound like worthy goals, but is there room to absorb today’s huddled administrator masses into this new IT economy?
This is a question that I hope to gain some insights into with our upcoming syndicated research. We plan to ask some of the more advanced IT shops what new roles their administrative personnel are assuming in an “IT-as-a-service” world. Utopia? Dystopia? Probably somewhere in the middle.