This question is asked a lot within the I.T world and in this blog I can shed some light on the subject. With the introduction of technologies such as virtualisation, the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation, Software defined networking and cloud based services; will these end up taking away some of the core every day tasks and responsibilities performed by I.T department?.
The same technologies that admins out there are working to implement are at the same time making some of their every day tasks redundant. We can all see how much easier Virtualisation has made managing servers for systems administrators. The same will go for managing networks when Software Defined Networking really takes off.
So where to now for these highly trained I.T professionals?
Just because cloud services such as Azure and Office 365 are becoming more attractive to companies it does not mean the person supporting these systems will not require as much knowledge. If you already have knowledge on the on premise equivalent then this will give you a good base knowledge. But there is a lot more to know about optimising, maintaining and supporting these cloud based systems. Skills in these areas will eventually be a necessity that all systems admins will need. If you have not already then it would be wise to start a certification path down these fields of expertise.
When it comes to supporting users then this branch of the Systems administrators role will always exist. In this new age of the latest technologies and gadgets and a generation of people who grew up with it has resulted in users with more technical knowledge and skills to use these technologies. This unfortunately has not made supporting users any easier. Users will now have up to 3 devices, demand faster speeds in accessing their data and require connectivity to their systems at all times and from any location.
The evolution of the systems will always expand into new technologies and with these new technologies will always bring new challenges for system admins to support. Being a systems admin there is also a people element to the role. The barrier between users and technology may be closing slightly but there is always going to be a barrier. A good systems admin will be there to help with this and provide friendly support and training.
The system admin role will never go away. As long as there are systems, someone will be required to implement, decommission, manage and support it.
I want to now briefly discuss security as it will affect both the systems and network administrator. Cyber crime is a multi billion dollar industry and when you compare that to the Antivirus software industry which is just a multi million dollar industry, it is clear that there is more money being thrown at creating new threats then there is to protect the users and systems that are being targeted.
Whether you are a big or small organisation, technologies such as next generation firewalls, emails spam filtering systems, DNS web filters and endpoint protection will all need to be implemented, kept up to date and managed. Larger organisations will often hire a security engineer to perform this role but this will come at a hefty price. Systems and/or network administrators will take ownership of this responsibility in the future. A certification such as the CCNA in Cyber Ops will be highly valuable moving forward as a Systems/ Network administrator
With the introduction of software defined networking and intent based networking the future does not look bright for network admins. I am here to tell you that network admins are not going anywhere. But…… it will be up to the network admins out there to put in some work though. It is time for Cisco professionals to learn network programability through programming languages such as python and Java. These skills will be necessary by all Network Engineers to assist in writing programs used to control their network environments.
This is where years and years of networking and CLI knowledge will come into play. The normal developer will either not have these skills nor will not be interested in obtaining these skills. It will be important to understand in depth, the knowledge of configuring Cisco devices. In order to survive as a network administrator and stand out it will be important to simply learn some coding. Sounds like hard work but it will be worth it in the end and allow for career longevity.
If you haven’t noticed there is a major takeaway from the information I have covered in this blog post. With new technologies will come new challenges and the biggest challenge for I.T professionals is to recognise what skill sets will be worth gaining. By obtaining these skills and qualifications will result in new opportunities for system and network admins. The roles and responsibilities will naturally change and evolve around the new technologies and the businesses needs. Systems and Network admins are safe and will always be required as long as they adjust their skill sets in line with the new technologies that are being implemented.