What Will SysAdmins Do in the Automated Cloud Future?
Nobody would dispute that system administrators have been integral to keeping IT environments running. But that hasn’t stopped people from wondering whether sysadmins will still have a role in a future world of highly automated clouds.
They will, and it will be just as critical. But that role will also be very different.
Today, sysadmins are all about the VM. They’re akin to workers on a manufacturer’s production line. Sometimes they’re at the beginning of the line, figuring out where to place the VM and what services to connect to it, and then handing it off to developers who will add applications inside of it. Sometimes they’re at the end of the process, deploying the VM. Many times they’re manning the station, ready to add memory to fix poor performance or move a VM when a server fails.
But increasingly, advanced analytics engines are able to identify infrastructure anomalies and recommend remediation steps, and automation tools can put many of them into action. So what does that mean for sysadmins?
Instead of focusing on discrete tasks and spending large amounts of time on daily firefighting, sysadmins will be more strategic, like pilots overseeing entire operations.
Even though airplanes are capable of getting from point A to point B on their own thanks to intelligent systems and automation, pilots still man the cockpit. Their expertise is required to oversee and, often times, adjust the incredibly intricate and interdependent systems that keep planes flying. Pilots are the ones entrusted with getting passengers to destinations safely.
So, too, with sysadmins. The cloud—and the notion of software-defined data centers—have added order-of-magnitudes more complexity to IT environments. Instead of an application running on one VM, it may run on dozens of VMs, each of which has storage, load balancing, database and other services attached to it. Instead of the VM being the container, the application becomes the container. And each container is a system with many interdependent parts and services.
The sysadmin’s new role is to optimize and manage those systems. But unlike the way sysadmins have been managing VMs, they can’t hand-hold each of these complex systems. They’d run out of hours in a day before even scratching the surface. Rather, now that products such as VMware vCO, vCAC and App Director are being combined into a single automation stack, deeply integrated with vCenter Operations Management, and working together with SRM, vSAN and NSX, software can automatically handle many of the daily tasks. When more complex, critical problems arise, they’ll be flagged for the sysadmins, who will pull from their broad knowledge and nuanced understanding of storage, networks, applications and more, to triage and resolve them.
The sysadmins’ responsibilities won’t end there. By working at this higher level, they will be able to influence those systems in ways that help businesses operate more efficiently, cost-effectively and competitively. And that’s where their real value lies. Sysadmins of the future will be planners and problem solvers who leverage automated cloud environments and their advanced analytics capabilities. Like pilots, they’ll ensure the IT systems that businesses rely on can take them the enterprise where they it needs to go.
By Leslie Muller