Too many offerings stop with the initial provisioning of resources, and leave subsequent resource level adjustment in the hands of a system administrator, who is expected to add or subtract resources as necessary--via the good old-fashioned hands-on methods. This essentially leaves the established practices, designed for an older, smaller-scale computing world, in place--with the unquestioned inability to adjust to the future of IT operations.
Failing to improve a set of processes to respond to a changed world is sometimes characterized as "paving the cow paths." Automating initial provisioning while leaving ongoing operations unchanged is, perhaps, worse: it's strapping a jetpack to the cow, but hewing to the same old paths. More importantly, it leaves IT organizations exposed to being unprepared for the future needs of large-scale application management.
Tomorrow's applications will require more than orchestration; they'll require dynamism--the ability to rapidly, seamlessly, and transparently adjust resource consumption, all without human intervention. Absent dynamism we're left with buggy whip processes in a motorized world.
It can't be put any more bluntly than this: just as the (perhaps apocryphal) story about telephone call growth projections in the 1930s predicted a future in which every woman in American would be needed as a telephone operator, the growth of computing will, if current processes are left unchanged, require every able-bodied technical employee to be administering machines in the near future. Just as the future of every woman donning a headset never came to pass, neither will the future of massed ranks of sys admins&it's economically unworkable.
What This Means
The nature of IT operations will change as much over the next five years as it has changed over the past fifty. If you thought the Internet changed computing, wait until you see big data and the applications it engenders. There's no question that cloud computing, whether a public or private/internal variant, is the future of computing. The challenge is that most of us (and I certainly include myself in this) have not yet begun to fathom the implications of infinite scalability and highly variable demand.
We can expect to see massive stress in IT operations as it grapples with how to respond to workloads that are orders of magnitude larger. And, just as many mourned the passing of the friendly, service-with-a-smile telephone operator, many people, both inside and outside of IT, will grieve for the old days of smart, hands-on sysadmins.
What one can predict for this new world is this:
1. A need for highly-automated operations tools that require little initial configuration and subsequent "tuning" because they operate on AI-based rules
2. A huge amount of turmoil as sunk investment in outmoded tools must be written off in favor of new offerings better suited to the new computing environment
3. A change in the necessary skill sets of operations personnel from individual system management to automated system monitoring and inventory management
4. A new generation of applications designed to take advantage of new computing capabilities and respond to the needs of huge data
If you want a glimpse of your future in IT operations, by looking at the current operations experience of the largest Web 2.0 applications, check out the Velocity Conference.
Next week I plan to write on the application architecture requirements for this new world. Just as the demands of cloud computing will transform IT operations, they will transform application design and implementation.
Bernard Golden is CEO of consulting firm HyperStratus, which specializes in virtualization, cloud computing and related issues. He is also the author of "Virtualization for Dummies," the best-selling book on virtualization to date.
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