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Thomas LaRock
Thomas LaRock
Commentary
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Hello Automation; Goodbye IT Jobs

With automated tasks and new cloud services, we are coding ourselves right out of our jobs.

The other day I had to fix our home printer. Despite being online and connected to the home network, no one could reach the printer in order to, well, print something. It turned out that due to a power outage there was something wrong between the printer and the router, and a quick reboot of the router fixed everything.

As I got everything working again, I couldn't help but think of two things:

First, there should be an easy way for someone to write a bit of code that would check to see if the printer's internal webpage is reachable, and if the page is not reachable, reboot the router. You could even log this activity and send an email to notify the users. 

The second thing I thought about was an article Scott Hanselman wrote a few years ago about how everything is broken and nobody is upset. We have lousy software all around us. I see this in the form of poorly designed products that don't scale beyond a few hundred users. It has become more important for the developers to ship what they have today and worry about scalability and performance tomorrow. 

This, in turn, leads to the need to have an IT professional come in after the fact and help make things better. But that means the IT pro is essentially a piece of middleware, sitting between the end users and the developers, helping to keep things connected and running. 

And middleware is something that gets replaced through automation and robots.

In many ways, system administrators are a lot like the cashier at a grocery store checkout. We are mostly operational by nature, often waiting until we are needed to take action, and able to handle a few different tasks at once. The list of tasks we perform has four main buckets:

  1. Backups/restores
  2. Query tuning
  3. Maintenance
  4. Monitoring

As a sysadmin, there is always emphasis on automating parts of our role so we can spend our time working on things other than watching a blinking light. One of the most common things we automate is the collection of performance data to help with query tuning.

Despite having all the tools necessary to troubleshoot application and database performance, the truth is an IT pro is middleware and middleware can be replaced. We spend time automating tasks left and right and we never, ever think that we are coding ourselves right out of our jobs.

But that's what is happening. Service providers such as Microsoft are using code to replace administrators. Just look at the list of functionality being added to Microsoft Azure, services usually done by database administrators:

Microsoft Azure is building the equivalent of a grocery self-checkout line.

I know someone reading this will point out how a human is still needed to perform some tasks in Azure. And I won't disagree, but I will remind you that through the use of Azure Machine Learning, it won't be long before Microsoft is providing a service that will require little to no human intervention. Just look at what they're doing with auto scaling of applications and you can see the trend is towards having fewer people and less middleware.

Just as I'm certain cashiers never thought they would be replaced by customers willing to do the job themselves, most administrators will read this and think there is no way their job will be eliminated. The idea that somehow humans are always going to be important, and that we can't be replaced, is a failure in our critical thinking skills.

I'm sure that's what workers in car manufacturing plants thought as the robots were deployed. Amazon drones will replace the need for a delivery person. We have machines to make hamburgers at fast-food restaurants.

We should have noticed this was coming; that one day we would code ourselves right out of our jobs.

It's not all doom and gloom here, though. The world of data is changing, and along with it so is the role of a data professional. You get to choose if you want to pivot your career into a new role such as a data analyst or perhaps a cloud architect.

For me, I just want my printer to work after a power outage.

(Image: golero/iStockphoto)

As a Head Geek for SolarWinds, Thomas works with a variety of customers to help solve problems regarding database performance tuning and virtualization. He has over 15 years of IT experience, holding various roles such as programmer, developer, analyst and database ... View Full Bio
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Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 6:00:03 AM
Re: Scary Catchy Line !!!
Also, i have a friend in my customer IT team, who usually configure customer vrf, perform some commands for checking, .... because the platform run on IOS-XR, sometimes it become difficult, so i will do a large python soft for him. and last, i'm  building a big python script to automate MPLS deployment. because, here SDN doesn't exist yet :) but i'm shaping my onepk skill ;)

Thanks for your reply!
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 5:53:47 AM
Re: Scary Catchy Line !!!
for example, i usually performed software upgrade on Cisco ASR devices, the process is very long, and write a small tool to automate it could be interesting, and each time, there is patchs release, probably i must get there to install some of them. i maintain 8 ASR 9k, not easy ;)
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 5:43:06 AM
Re: Scary Catchy Line !!!
Hi Mynet,

Yes. Of course, the new skill i'm talking about is related to Automation!
Mynet
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Mynet,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 4:23:49 AM
Re: Scary Catchy Line !!!
"Automation is already there and new skills are required!"

Amon, when you apply the automation to new domains more employment opportunities can be created.
Mynet
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Mynet,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 4:19:19 AM
Re: Scary Catchy Line !!!
"I agree that automation has the potential to transform economies and it is difficult to predict the end result of the transformation."

Brian, what I would like to suggest is automation has to be done not only for IT, it has to be done for other sectors like farming/agriculture sector, health domain etc, which can help to ease the job and at athe same time it can create more job opportunities too.
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
12/23/2015 | 11:20:37 PM
Re: Scary Catchy Line !!!
In aggregate, it is difficult to imagine a producer without a consumer (Say's Law). Job duties might change

You share good point @Brian about Job duties might change. Yes even Automation will also call for Job role changes but with same we will also see some good reduction in manpower. Number of factors here, just look back in past when we used to have tape storage only, companies had bunch of employees/ dedicated team to support and take care of this, but now storage has transformed enough and now it is either taken care by IT admin or just another IT employee.
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/23/2015 | 5:48:58 AM
Re: Scary Catchy Line !!!
Automation is already there and new skills are required!
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/23/2015 | 5:44:15 AM
Re: Scary Catchy Line !!!
LOOL, Yes. i think the title is just  strategical. :)
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
12/23/2015 | 2:48:14 AM
Re: Scary Catchy Line !!!
I agree that automation has the potential to transform economies and it is difficult to predict the end result of the transformation.

At the fundamental level, automation has been the tool that has enabled modern economies. For instance, if farmers were not able to automate and create a surplus that could be sold in the market then, the service sector, financial sector and information sector, etc., would not have been possible.

In aggregate, it is difficult to imagine a producer without a consumer (Say's Law). Job duties might change for example, a stock trader could lose their duty of calculating stock values and trading stocks due to algorithmic trading but, they will gain the responsibility to monitor, provide information about the algorithm or to create newer algorithms. 
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
12/22/2015 | 8:44:59 AM
Scary Catchy Line !!!
I must admit, at first glance when i saw the headline of blog, i was little scared. I thought Author has bought us something on automation wherein he is pointing out on job cuts ..LOL ;) Not this Chritsmas.
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