June 5, 2013
Yeah, that’s right. You heard me.
There are a ton of people who are very, very mad at Microsoft because of their recent TechEd announcement. Basically, Microsoft is concentrating, in a large way, in being a managed service provider. They’re still selling software, but they’re concentrating on honing their hosted service offerings, and in the mean time, a lot of system administrators have expressed concern that Microsoft is saying “Screw You” to sysadmins, because they feel like Microsoft is intentionally making it unnecessary to have sysadmins doing the same thing they have been for 20 years.
I hate to say it, but “suck it up”, because this is totally what’s happening, and it’s going to be better for (almost) everyone this way.
Look, I wrote over a year ago that the profession of system administration is fracturing. There are going to be the architectual people who do big-picture things, and there will be the physical infrastructure admins who deal with the lower layer issues. You’ll notice that I didn’t say anything in that article about mid-level Exchange admins, and that’s because, in the future, roles like that won’t exist like they do now. I’m not picking on Exchange. I could just as easily have said “MySQL admins”.
It’s certainly not that people will stop using the services, it’s just that the administration of them will be largely abstracted away, and any other administration of the services will be done in bulk by the Exchange Admin at the MSP, not by someone at your company. Sure, someone at your company might be responsible for writing the software that ties your local infrastructure into the MSP’s infrastructure, but it won’t be a “sysadmin” as you currently recognize them. It’ll be a programmer who knows operations, directed to do that by the infrastructure architect.
At best, infrastructures of a large enough scale will run their own internal abstractions (“clouds”), and administrators will use APIs to deploy instances, diving into the actual administration of services only when necessary, and only for extremely deep-knowledge related issues. If you don’t think so, take some time and research OpenStack or even Microsoft’s recent Azure Pack. The idea is that it becomes seamless for you to have infrastructure on your equipment, then migrate it to an external provider.
This model won’t ever contain 100% of the infrastructures out there. For a lot of people, it still makes sense to run their own physical infrastructures in-house and to have the “normal” IT staff supporting them, and it’ll continue to be that way for a long time. But as new companies come online, this new way of operating IT will become more and more common.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t make sense to build out a new generic physical infrastructure anymore, beyond whatever is necessary to support your users’ desktop machines. Using a hosted cloud provider for your business is better in almost every way, so if you want to future-proof yourself, learn AWS, learn Azure, learn Rackspace. Learn to code. Learn configuration management. Learn to let go of the way that things have always been, because they won’t always be like that in the future.