In any migration from traditional IT infrastructure to the Amazon Cloud, there’s one lingering – though not always stated – question on the mind of any system administrator or engineer: Will I still have a job once this migration is completed?
Assuredly, the answer is “yes” – but it’s a ‘qualified’ yes. For the IT pros who choose to float weightlessly to the cloud, rather than try to swim against the current, a world of new and quite relevant opportunities lie ahead.
In fact, for many enterprises, a migration to the Amazon Cloud can bestow hero status on the modern-day system admin – who now presides over an efficient, quick and financially prudent division.
Here are four ways that the Amazon Cloud serves to reinforce the role of the IT professional.
IT as a Service can be a remarkably versatile tool, with the ability to do new things that the old rack room couldn’t dream of actualizing. Virtualization touts the ability to bring innovation initiatives closer to a quicker reality, by delivering the ability to spin up one or more application platforms quickly, and to deliver these platforms to application vendors and developers alike. With this new versatility comes a new pain point – how to plan and make prudent choices to deliver a right-sized platform that will support the application both today, and tomorrow.
AWS completes this promise by bringing scalable elastic options that are interchangeable on the fly, affording administrators and managers the ability to right-size as they go. This more closely aligns the applications with the delivery of innovation initiatives. Given this scalability, administrators can confidently plan their environment while constantly meeting developer and application provider needs, and best practices.
Virtualization providers made good on their promise of bringing a much better ROI, by making better use out of the purchased hardware resources over time. However, this created a new challenge for administrators – how to monitor what is added to the virtualized environments, without them becoming the IT equivalent of the Wild West. Virtual server sprawl became the new norm, as administrators quickly realized that their resources are finite, while others saw infinite opportunity. Given this challenge, administrators found themselves juggling requests for new resource consumption and current resource availability – and having to turn to increased capital expenditure to solve the issue.
Since AWS handles the juggling of resources behind the scenes, on a much more powerful infrastructure, administrators can offer much more aggressive technology roll-out strategies that don’t require the need for a large capital investment or lengthy projects to increase resource budgets.
As virtualized environments proliferate, there is an ever-increasing need to monitor, manage, and maintain the equipment. IT administrators constantly find themselves having to expand their knowledge on all things infrastructure, forcing them to cover a broader range of equipment, and applications that all do various things. This has had the effect of shifting the typical administrators’ knowledge base from vertical to horizontal – said another way, jacks of all, masters of one or none. Since administrators have more of a limited knowledge set on the products they service on a daily basis, deployment times become longer, dependence on third-party providers increases, and issue discovery time becomes longer.
AWS minimizes the requirements and knowledge needed to deploy massive technology, as cloud experts and vendor partners help to support infrastructure needs. Though there is a learning curve to the management of AWS, administrators can standardize their knowledge and skills – providing them with a deeper product knowledge that results in less time managing AWS, and more time performing day-to-day operations such as operations, security, management, and administration of deployed platforms. For administrators, this also means less time identifying, and resolving plaguing infrastructure challenges within their environment, and more time supporting the ever-growing platforms deployed by the enterprise.
With the inception of the private cloud and virtualization, we were able to quickly lift the application/operating system stack off of the supporting hardware. This made the Application/OS stack much more mobile, providing this stack the ability to cross hardware platforms, and even transition to other physical environments. This ability brought organizations much closer to higher system availability, because individual hardware failure, to include platform, rack, or even data center, was no longer a challenge.
New terms, like “resource clustering for High Availability,” and “Virtual Machine Replication,” became common fault-tolerant methods to ensure that the organization maintained access to its front line business applications at all times, regardless of the situation. For IT administrators, this created a new paradigm in their thought process, since it forced them to think outside of the individual server.
The new challenge is to architect for fault tolerance for a single machine, by replicating these efforts within every hardware platform that can house that application, as well as any datacenter to which the application can transition. Application movement outside of its primary environment presents a new challenge for administrators, because they now have to ensure a seamless transition of all external variables during the application’s journey – all the while ensuring little or no disruption to end users.
AWS automates and streamlines this process — leveraging the same fluid motion of the OS stack and providing administrators the freedom to leverage multiple availability zones and other Amazon platforms to ensure high availability for the application. With Amazon doing the heavy lifting to ensure application fluidity on a global scale, IT administrators no longer need to try to wrap their arms around the globe – they simply need to leverage the massive AWS infrastructure, and deploy for highly available applications.
Though it’s unmistakable that, in this brave new cloud frontier, the role of the typical systems administrator and engineer will change, it’s also clear that there will be no shortage of work to ensure job security. Instead of getting caught up in the minutiae, administrators will now have the chance to focus less on keeping the doors open and lights on (systems online and accessible), and more time innovating.