I’ve come to a crossroads. Regular SolarWinds Lab viewers and new THWACKcamp attendees might have noticed my fondness for all things programmable. I can’t help smiling when I talk about it; I came to enterprise IT after a decade as a developer. But if you run across my spoor outside of SolarWinds, you may notice a thinly-veiled, mild but growing despair. On the flight back from Microsoft® Ignite last week, I reluctantly accepted reality: IT, as we know it, will die.
Origin of a Bummer
On one hand, this should be good news because a lot of what we deal with in IT is, quite frankly, horrible and completely unnecessary. I’m not referring to managers who schedule weekly all-hands that last an hour because that’s the default meeting period in Outlook®. Also not included are 3:00am crisis alerts that prompt you to stumble to the car with a baseball hat because the issue is severe enough to take out the VPN, too. Sometimes it’s okay to be heroic, especially if that means you get to knock off early at 2:00pm.
The perennial horror of IT is boredom. Tedium. Repetitive, mindless, soul-crushing tasks that we desperately want to remediate, delegate, or automate, but can’t because there’s no time, management won’t let us, or we don’t have the right tools.
All of this might be okay, except for two things: accelerating complexity and the move to the cloud. The skinny jeans-clad new kids can’t imagine any other way, and many traditional large enterprise IT shops also hit the cloud hookah and discovered real benefits. Both groups recognized dev as a critical component, and their confidence comes from knowing that they can and will create whatever their IT requires to adapt and realize the benefits of new technology.
No, the reason this is a bummer – if only for five-or-so-years – is that it’s going to hit the people I have the greatest affinity for the hardest: small to medium business IT, isolated independent department IT in large organizations, and superstar admins with deep knowledge in highly specialized IT technology. In short, those of you who’ve worn all the hats I have at one point or another over the last two decades.
I totally understand the reasonable urge to stand in front of a gleaming Exchange rack and tell all the SaaS kids to get off your lawn. But that’s a short-term solution that won’t help your career. In fact, if you’re nearing or over 50, this is an especially critical time to be thinking about the next five years. I watched some outstanding rack-and-stack app infrastructure admins gray out and fade away because they resisted the virtualization revolution. Back then, I had a few years to get on board, gain the skills to tame VMs, and accelerate my career.
This time, however, I’m actively looking ahead, transitioning my education and certification, and working in production at least a little every week with cloud and PaaS technology. I’m also talking to management about significant team restructuring to embrace new techniques.
Somewhere over Louisiana I accepted the macro solution that we’ll each inevitably face, but also my personal role in it. We must tear down IT as we know it, and rebuild something better suited to a data center-less reality. We’ll abandon procedural ticket-driven change processes, learn Sprints, Teaming, Agile, and, if we’re lucky, get management on board with a little Kanban, perhaps at a stand-up meeting.
And if any or all of that sounds like New Age, ridiculous mumbo jumbo, that’s perfectly okay. That is a natural and understandable reaction of pragmatic professionals who need to get tish done. My role is to help my peers discover, demystify, and develop these new skills. Further, it’s to help management stop thinking of you as rigidly siloed and ultimately replicable when new technology forces late-adopting organizations into abrupt shifts and spasms of panicked change.
But more than that, if these principles are even partially adopted to enable DevOps-driven IT, life is better. The grass really is greener. I’ve seen it, lived it, and, most surprising to this skeptical, logical, secret introvert, I’ve come to believe it. My job now is to combine my fervor for the tools we’ll use with a career of hard-won IT lessons and do everything I can to help. Don’t worry. This. Is. Gonna. Be. Awesome.