Your future as an IT Pro in a DevOps world
Andrew Nicholls, Infrastructure Engineer, Fabric
So it’s been almost a month since Microsoft Ignite – The Tour, in London. Two days packed with events ranging from desktop deployment to security in the cloud and even mental wellbeing in the workplace. However, what stood out to me the most was how many development events there were. They outweighed other events by a good 60 – 70 percent.
In my 18 years in IT, I have been to a lot of events and sat through a lot of training courses. Microsoft, Cisco, Ruckus Wireless, Avaya. The list goes on. I’ve even attended a Linux course! Yes some of us Microsoft fans occasionally enjoy the dark side! Throughout these events and courses, the one thing I have noticed is the shift in what is expected as an IT Pro. Especially over the past five years or so with cloud computing hitting hard and applications being more PaaS based rather than IaaS. Development, slowly but surely, has started to increase in these events and eventually surpassed the typical infrastructure/operations side. In fact, to the point where nowadays when I come to these events I struggle to find fresh content that applies to me. Sure I can sit in desktop deployment, and cloud security, but these are part of my day to day job as it is, so I know this already. Of course, there are always new features and new ways of doing tasks in these areas that help streamline the role, but again, with it being my day job it’s something I keep up with anyway. What I’m trying to say, is that the content at these events is getting hard to justify travelling to places, like London, and staying in a hotel for a few days being away from my family. So the one event that certainly caught my eye, was ‘What is the Future of an IT Pro in a DevOps Cloudy World?’ I say I was keen, but in reality, I was scared of what the consensus would be! The fear of hearing ‘you need to learn to code’ wasn’t a pleasant one.
The event started with the burning question… As an IT Pro where does your job stand in this DevOps world? Are you still a requirement, or will the future of IT drive a complete NoOps trend?
At this point, I should probably explain what DevOps and NoOps are.
DevOps is the term that refers to merging both development and operations teams, both working to shorten the application development cycle from test to live and then maintaining that application by patch and update.
NoOps refers to completely removing operations by automating all operational tasks via, well, automation scripts. I’ve spoken to many devs in the past, and one of their biggest frustrations during an application deployment is dealing with IT Pros due to them, not understanding, or not caring how the application works, and continually creating barriers to protect their infrastructure. DevOps removes this slightly, whereas NoOps would remove it entirely due to the developers having full control of their application and it’s PaaS environment.
As the event went on, one of the guys in the audience asked, ‘what if I have no coding skills and I don’t want to learn to code?’ The reply was, ‘if you don’t then you need to start looking for another job!’ Before the event I would have thought that to be slightly ignorant, however, after listening to all four speakers share their experience (one coming from IT Pro to now being a PowerShell MVP, and another being a full-on developer but in the now DevOps world being exposed to infrastructure via automation) I absolutely agree with the comment.
Does this mean you need to ditch your infrastructure skillset and learn nothing but coding languages? Not quite. One of the speakers compared devs to the autopilot in a plane. Yes it works, and yes it gets more advanced, but you still need the pilots. The pilots undoubtedly need to ‘learn’ how autopilot works, but they’re still needed. Same goes for IT Pros. We’re still needed. However, we need to ‘learn’ and add to our skill set. That being a basic understanding of code. It’ll certainly help when working with devs to troubleshoot potential issues, breakdown in applications and overall bridging that divide between devs and pros.
So where do you start? Well, that I’m still trying to figure out myself, but the advice given at the event was GitHub. For example, the next time you need a PowerShell script to execute a non-standard task, then be sure to check out GitHub. Maybe ask questions in the forums? Or perhaps you want to deploy a service into Azure? Maybe try deploying using JSON scripts rather than the typical ‘point and click’ method. If it didn’t work… Head over to GitHub and post the question in their forums, along with your script.
Remember, this is for your future so jump in and embrace it. Gone are the days where you get paid for installing physical servers, plugging in network cables and the whole on-site mundane tasks. In a cloud-centric world, a better understanding of how everything works together will be an absolute requirement from IT Pros and developers alike.